The State isn't the Best Tutor

More and more Russian orphans are finding new homes. Sixty-four thousand children were adopted or taken in by foster parents in the first eight months of 2007, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says. Great progress has been made since last year, when just 7,700 orphans were adopted by Russians and another 6,700 by foreigners.

Estimates of the total number of abandoned Russian children vary from 700,000 to two million. Only one in six has no relatives at all. Orphanages are certainly not the best places for them. Physicians and psychologists agree that life at home, even at a foster home, stimulates intellectual and emotional progress, helping children to adapt to adult life and eventually set up healthy families of their own. The state no longer thinks it is the best tutor for the 200,000 children in orphanages today.

Adoptions are largely promoted by rising living standards and financial incentives. This year's federal budget allocated 6 billion rubles, or $245 million, for the purpose. Foster parents have received 8,000 rubles ($327) a month per child since the start of 2007. The Moscow, Astrakhan and Tula regions add their own allocations to these federal grants, and help foster families to improve housing.

There is a more important factor than money: a changing public attitude. Ten percent of Russian respondents to a poll by VTsIOM (All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre), and 16% in another poll by the Public Opinion Foundation said they were willing to adopt a child. Officials must not hinder adoptions with red tape; their principal duty is to monitor childrens' lives in their new homes.

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