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MOSCOW, October 8 (Itar-Tass) - Russia’s aging but still popular variety show star Alla Pugacheva, 64, and her 37-seven-year-old spouse, comedian and actor Maksim Galkin, left the public dumfounded for a moment on Monday by declaring that a surrogate mother had just given birth to their twin babies, a boy and a girl. Over the past day this news has been the most discussed topic in the media and on city streets.
Most express admiration over the celebrity couple’s decision, but many other, not very flattering comments can also heard. A member of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly, Vitaly Milonov is possibly the one who expressed them in the curtest way. Milonov, the author of the controversial legal act establishing administrative punishment for the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia, expressed anger over the very instance Pugacheva and Galkin used the services of a surrogate mother.
He said that in a country where “tens of thousands of orphans are waiting for adoption” such a step is immoral.
The problem of adoptions remains one of the most acute ones in Russian society. Despite the recently introduced ban on child adoptions by US citizens and foreign same-sex couples the list of orphans is getting shorter far more slowly than one would like to expect.
Why are Russians so reluctant to adopt children? is a question often asked in the blogosphere. Material problems and moral callousness are the reason, is the most frequent reply. In the meantime, the government is exerting great efforts to make orphans’ lives easier.
Currently Russia has about 110,000 orphaned children. Last year there were 118,000 of them.
This means that eight thousand boys and girls have joined adopted families since, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets told the national forum of adoptive families on Monday. Golodets said the government was encouraging adoptions and guardianship. For instance, it was increasing material support for such families.
The Russian government-published Rossiiskaya Gazeta quotes Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov as saying there are 420,000 families with adopted children in Russia. The government works really hard to give each Russian child a chance to have a family, he said.
The problem of Russian orphans hit the headlines around the world when Russia last year introduced a special law prohibiting US citizens from adopting Russian children. The authorities said the measure was due to numerous cases of maltreatment of adopted Russian children in the United States, which sometimes had lethal outcomes.
In other countries the measure was interpreted as Russia’s retaliation for the notorious Magnitsky Act, which introduced personal sanctions against officials who, in Washington’s opinion, were responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, an auditor of Hermitage Capital company, in a Russian detention centre.
The law, which received the unofficial name Dima Yakovlev Act - in memory of a Russian orphan who died in the United States due to his adoptive parents’ negligence - took effect on January 1, 2013. The act triggered a controversial response inside and outside Russia, where its opponents claimed that the ban on foreign adoptions left no chance for Russian orphans nobody else would like to adopt to hope for a better future.
According to mass media reports, in 2000 through 2011 foreign nationals adopted about 65,000 Russian children. Most of Russian orphans leaving the country were adopted by European families.
The authorities have made it quite clear that they were determined to deal with the problem of Russian orphans quite seriously. Alongside the Dima Yakovlev Act there was issued a presidential decree on some measures to facilitate the implementation of government policies in the sphere of protection of orphaned children and children left without parental care. Under the decree, the social pension for disabled children went up from 6,357 roubles to 8,704 roubles a month (roughly 320 dollars) starting from January 1, 2013. The lump sum bonus the adoptive family gets at the moment of adoption was also increased.
In July a special law on amendments to certain legal acts concerning orphaned children took effect. The law adjusted some articles of the Family Code, too. First and foremost, material support for adoptive parents was increased. In case of the adoption of a disabled child aged over seven, as well as brothers and sisters, the lump sum bonus goes up to 100,000 roubles from 13,000 roubles.
Also, the law relieved the adoptive parents of the need to keep record of minor spending on household needs. Besides, a potential adoptive parent is no longer obliged to present an account of the condition of one’s housing.
The law reduced the list of diseases that constitute an insurmountable obstacle to becoming an adoptive parent, but, as before, HIV and Hepatitis C are on the black list.
In the meantime, there has been virtually no day without reports from the regions saying that the local authorities crudely violate the rights of orphaned children, first and foremost, the right to housing the moment young people come of age. For instance, the audit chamber of the Arkhangelsk Region exposed a number of violations which left ten leavers of orphanages without housing in 2011 and 2012.
In the Russian segment of the Internet a wide discussion is underway over why Russians are in no hurry to adopt children. Material problems and moral callousness are the two explanations offered most often.
Internet blogger known by the nickname Guru says, “People of means do not need somebody else’s children, and the poor and destitute do not their own children. Clemency and compassion are long-forgotten emotions. Too bad but this is the world we have to live in these days.”