Sen. Mary Landrieu, mother of two adopted children and who lists adoption as one of her biggest political issues, is featured in “Stuck,” an award-winning documentary about families attempting to adopt internationally who have been “stuck” in the adoption process due to new regulations passed in recent years.
Since Feb. 28, the crew of “Stuck” have been on a bus tour traveling 17,000 miles to visit 60 cities in 80 days, hoping to inform people of this issue and get them to sign a petition to pressure President Barack Obama and Congress to remove barriers to international adoption.
On Monday, March 11, the tour will be arriving in New Orleans, and Sen. Landrieu and others will be hosting an event called “Celebrate the Family” which will take place at the WOW Café and Wingery, at 5359 Mounes Blvd in Elmwood. After the event, a screening of “Stuck” will premier at the AMC Place 20, at 1200 Elmwood Park Blvd in Harahan.
According to one of Sen. Landrieu's senior staff, Landrieu originally pushed for the U.S. to join the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which many other countries had done because it was supposed to establish better rules everyone would agree to follow and understand, and so countries would know what they were doing. It was supposed to make international adoption faster, cheaper, and more efficient.
Unfortunately, due to added bureaucracy, the exact opposite effects have materialized. International adoptions have become tougher, slower, and more expensive. The year after the U.S. adapted rules from the Hague Convention, international adoptions in the United States saw their biggest drop: from 17,456 annually to 12,744. Sen. Landrieu, and “Stuck” executive producer Craig Juntunen hope to reverse the trend.
One point of the documentary is to challenge a way of thinking – the idea that Americans perfer to adopt overseas and do so more often then domestically. The opposite is true: While there are adopting 50,000 children domestically, last year only 9,316 million were adopted internationally.
There are more than 10 million children outside the U.S. who live in institutions such as orphanages, group homes, and fostercare – or in the street – rather than in a family setting – which has been shown to lead to developmental issues.
And while the number of children eligible for adoption internationally is growing, for the last 8 years the number of children being internationally adopted has been in decline.
The average international adoption takes nearly 896 days and costs more than $28,000. Domestic adoptions also occur much more quickly. The documentary also hopes to challenge the idea that international adoption is somehow cheaper or quicker.
As in any political issue, not all agree. Those in favor of the tougher regulations argue that these norms are necessary, and they point to instances of “baby-buying” that have occurred. Recently, they have pointed to the tragic death of a three-year-old in January, Max Shatto, adopted from Russia to Texas, who was allegedly a victim of abuse. The tragedy struck a nerve with the Russian Congress, which passed a bill banning Russian orphans by U.S. families.
Landrieu released a statement after Shatto's death: "Contrary to current Russian opinion, child protection laws in the U.S. protect both biological children as well as adopted children, and this case is no exception. Neither this case nor others that have so much media attention in Russia recently should provide an excuse for that government to close intercountry adoption and relegate thousands of their own children to vapid lives in institutional care. Russia's step to encourage domestic adoption is commendable, but every child in the world deserves and needs a loving and protective family, including Russian children.”
In 2011, about 1,000 Russian children were adopted by Americans, more than any other foreign country. Still, nearly 120,000 children in Russia were eligible for adoption.
Besides Sen. Landrieu, opponents of the tougher regulations, such as Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard Law School, paint a different picture.
“Several countries with huge orphanage populations and often horrendous orphanage conditions have severely limited international adoption. Romania’s orphanages were brought to the world’s consciousness at the time of former dictator Ceausescu’s fall. Seasoned journalists were in tears as they reported on children tied to their cribs, children who had never learned to walk or talk and children dying from AIDS contracted in the orphanage,” she said.
“Better enforcement of laws prohibiting adoption abuses is the obvious additional answer. When parents violate laws prohibiting child maltreatment, we do not shut down the system that sends newborns home with their parents. We call for better enforcement of laws prohibiting maltreatment,” she continued. “Even if adoption abuses occur on more than an occasional basis, and even if eliminating them would be hard, shutting down international adoption is wrong. Zero tolerance for adoption abuses may sound good but it will hurt children. The evils involved in such abuses must be weighed against the far more signiﬁcant evils involved in denying children homes.”