Has the state of national politics devolved to the point where governmental leaders will hold the fate and future of children — orphans even — for the sake of political gain?

Has the state of national politics devolved to the point where governmental leaders will hold the fate and future of children — orphans even — for the sake of political gain?

That seems to be the case with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who signed a bill on Dec. 28 that will prohibit any adoption of Russian orphans by American families.

Thursday night, Putin said he would allow the 46 adoptions near finalization to take place, but no more. The full effect of the bill will be implemented in 2014.

The ban comes in retaliation for a U.S. bill that prohibits certain Russian officials from holding U.S. visas or assets in U.S. banks. The U.S. bill comes from the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer that discovered cases of tax fraud for a number of high-ranking officials. Magnitsky was arrested, reported to have been severely beaten with no medical treatment provided and died in jail in 2009. And the accused officials? Only the prison doctor was charged officially and was acquitted by a Moscow court.

Russian courts have named the bill after a Russian adopted toddler who died in 2008 when the adoptive father left him in a car in broiling heat for hours. The courts also have cited cases of 19 Russian children adopted by Americans who died while in their care.

And while those cases are tragic, and steps should be taken to prevent repeat cases, what of the 60,000 Russian children, according to UNICEF, that have been adopted and loved by American families in the past two decades?

The opportunity to grow and thrive far exceeds what many Russian orphans face once they find themselves outside of the institution. In both Russia and Eastern Europe, many children will run away from the orphanage around the age of 15. If they don’t, they end up “graduating” from the institution around the ages of 15 and 16. And suddenly, the orphan finds themselves on the cold streets without any proper education or sufficient means of survival. Seventy percent of the girls wound up in prostitution by the age of 15 or 16, and are forced into it in order to survive, and 60 percent of the boys wind up in prison by the age of 18. Ten percent of the orphans commit suicide by 25.

And what of the special-needs orphans? In Russia and Eastern Europe, it’s common practice for a parent with a special- needs child to deposit them in a state-run institution and practically pretend the child was never born. Why deal with the financial and social headache of a special-needs child when you can leave him to the state, right? By the age of 6, these children will often be taken out of the orphanage and placed into an adult mental institutions — an insane asylum — if they have even the slightest physical or mental defect. Once there, the children are hidden away from the rest of society, where they are often left chained — yes, chained — to their beds for many days, where they are summarily starved. Many die while in the institution.

Of the 46 American adoptions that are being finalized, every last one is for one of these are special-needs children.

I have a brother and sister who were adopted from Eastern Europe, and they’ve been a blessing to our family since stepping foot into the house. Were they never loved and adopted by our family, statistics show that my brother would be a criminal, and my sister would be a prostitute. After knowing them for so long, I couldn’t bear to think of my brother not at the dinner table cracking jokes, or my sister not being there to share popcorn with me as we watch a movie together.

The postponement of the bill’s effects until 2014 brings those orphans some valuable time. Putin also stated his hopes in reforming orphanages in Russia, as well as encouraging more Russians to adopt Russians. And while the stated goal is admirable — and completely necessary for human rights sakes alone — I have to wonder if Russia is truly able and willing to support the needs of more than 100,000 orphans in their country, or if Putin is still playing politics.

Joseph Tuszynski is a staff writer for the McPherson Sentinel, and the proud brother of two adopted siblings. He can be reached at joe.tuszynski@mcphersonsentinel.com