A Halifax couple’s adoption nightmare

After months of work and thousands of dollars spent, Adam and Pam Webber – a couple of good friends of mine – have had their worst dears confirmed:

A Halifax couple says their dreams of adopting a child have been crushed by Russian politics.

Pam and Adam Webber were in the final stages of a year-long adoption process. They thought they’d be flying to Russia this fall to bring home a toddler, but then they heard Canadian adoptions of Russian children were in limbo.

“It’s just heart wrenching and really hard to take,” said Pam.

International adoption was the end of the line for her. She and her husband tried fertility treatment and adopting from within the province with no luck.

“We wanted a family. We wanted a young family. We wanted a very involved family. I was the little girl who asked Santa for her own baby,” she said.

Adam Webber said they chose Russia because they heard the process is quicker.

“Quick being a year or two, as opposed to three or more years like a lot of places,” he said.

[…]

A Russian law banning adoptions by U.S. citizens was rushed through parliament in December and sped to President Vladimir Putin’s desk in less than 10 days in retaliation over a U.S. law calling for sanctions on Russians identified as human-rights violators.

Then, earlier this month, the country stopped adoptions to Sweden because it allows same-sex marriages.

But there was no word on Canada, so the Webbers prepared a toddler’s room and Pam quit her job so she could fly to Russia at a moment’s notice this fall.

Still, they braced for bad news. On Tuesday the Webber’s fears were confirmed by their Ontario adoption agency.

“It’s been a long couple of weeks trying to get answers and officially we found out today that Canada-Russia adoptions are suspended,” she said.

An increasingly nationalist Russia has been shutting the door on international adoptions for quite some time – first against the United States (ostensibly because of some admittedly heartbreaking cases in which adopted children were hurt or killed, but mainly as revenge) and now against other Western countries.  And this is what awaits them in their own country:

Russian authorities have ordered the arrest of two nurses they said severely beat three young children at an orphanage during a night of drinking. According to the authorities, they beat the children to get them to stop crying. One of the victims, a 7-month-old, was wrapped in a sheet and stuffed in a plastic container to muffle the cries.

The other children, a 3-year-old boy and a 10-month-old girl, were hospitalized with multiple injuries, Russia’s Investigative Committee said Thursday. The 7-month-old child was initially in a coma. Their current conditions were not immediately known.

[…]

…critics say little has been done to improve conditions at Russian orphanages or to promote adoptions domestically. More than 600,000 Russian children live outside the custody of their biological parents, many in foster homes. But about 130,000, many with physical and mental health problems, live in orphanages, where they are sometimes neglected and abused.

It was not clear how many children lived at the orphanage in the Khabarovsk region, or whether there had been a history of abuse there.

Investigators said the beatings began after several children awoke during the night and started crying. The children were not found until the next morning, when other workers arrived. Only then were they were taken to the hospital.

More at adoptanewattitude.com.

The man who adopted his girlfriend

Florida multimillionaire John Goodman (no, not that John Goodman) faced the prospect of bankruptcy when he was sued by the parents of a young man he killed in a drunk-driving accident.  He did have a massive trust fund set up for his children, but there was no way he could get access to that money.

Until now…

Enter the shrewd estate planning attorney who recommended that the 48-year-old Goodman adopt his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Laruso Hutchins, thus making her a beneficiary of the trust that Wilson’s parents cannot mention or touch. (In this arrangement, Hutchins is the beneficiary to roughly $70 million, which she would presumably share with Goodman, her doting dad-slash-boyfriend.) Elegant. Brilliant. And actually not that uncommon, it turns out.

Believe it or not, there is a growing trend in this country of adopting one’s adult lover or spouse for various reasons: to better guarantee the adoptee’s right to inherit directly from the adoptor; to keep other relatives from having any standing to contest an estate plan; or, as in Goodman’s case, to add a spouse or lover to a class of trust beneficiaries, allowing the “child” to inherit from the “parent.” Courts around the country are struggling to figure out whether these adoptions should be upheld or not.

Clever.  Sleazy and sick, but undeniably clever.

Slate asks the obvious question: wouldn’t the relationship between Goodman and Hutchins be considered incest, now that she is legally his daughter?  It would in some states, but not Florida:

But before you go out and adopt your lover, there is one pretty serious repercussion you should consider: Are you committing incest? An incest conviction can result in serious jail time. And think about it: The adopter is having sexual relations with his or her legal child. Is that not incest?

For as long as anyone can remember, almost all cultures have outlawed at least some form of sexual relations and/or marriage between family members. Written prohibitions can be traced as far back as the Levitical Codes. Incest is a statutory crime that has been around in America since colonial times.

My research indicates that today at least 25 states and territories, representing over 140.8 million people (approximately 46 percent of the total population) in the United States, are subject to laws that include the adopted parent/adult child relationship within the definition of incest. That means a good many adult adoptions solve one legal problem but create an arguably worse one. Fortunately for both Goodman and his daughter/girlfriend, Florida is not one of these states. Otherwise, they might find themselves facing criminal prosecution, as have adopters and adoptees elsewhere.

Insert your own Woody Allen reference here.

(via The Volokh Conspiracy)