There are just two memories that Max Rollins comes up with when he recalls the years he spent in an orphanage in Russia, near Moscow.

“I used to play on a toy motorcycle,” said Rollins, 24, who grew up in Davenport. “I also remember making my bed, every morning.”

Rollins was 5 years old when he was adopted from Russia by Robin and Jeff Rollins of Davenport. He is now a graduate of the University of Iowa and a third-year medical student at Rush Memorial Hospital, Chicago.

Home on break from a medical rotation, Rollins called the intent of Russian

President Vladimir Putin to sign a law to ban Americans from adopting Russian orphans sad. It’s more of an embarrassment to Russia than it is to the U.S, he said.

Rollins said there has been much publicity about a few problems in Russian adoptions, but little has been said about the “many thousands of American families who are loving and amazing to the children they adopt.

“Look at me,” he said Thursday. “If I would have stayed in Russia, I would have grown up in the orphanage and now be a member of the Russian Army.”

Visited in 2006

Rollins graduated from Rivermont Collegiate, Bettendorf, in 2006, and his grandfather, Jim Koehler, took him on a trip to Russia. He and his grandfather visited the orphanage and found some of the same people who knew Rollins as a little boy.

“They remembered me, and that was so cool!” he said. “They called me ‘sweet Max,’ and they were very comforted to know that life in America had turned out well for me.”

Parents of children adopted from Russia think many Americans don’t understand the love and care that many Russians have for the little ones. The orphanage where Max lived, Robin Rollins said, was not much to look at, but it was very evident that Max was loved and cared for.

Joan Baril of Blue Grass had a similar experience when she arrived in Russia 14 years ago to adopt a baby. Peter, now 15 years old, is a freshman at Davenport West High School.

“It was very difficult for our son’s caregivers to leave their care,” Baril said. The Russian people, she added, have no lack of love or willingness to care for the orphan children in their country.

“There is a lack of means to do so,” she said.

Political football

The actions of Putin this week have been repeated in Russia over the years. “This is purely a political tool,” Robin Rollins said.

“Russia is pretty famous for doing this,” agreed Susan Salmon, who works with adoptions through Iowa KidsNet and is based in Denison, Iowa.

Salmon used to arrange international adoptions and remembers several instances in which families would start the adoption process, but would have to stop because of one Russian law or another.

“It does happen from time to time,” Salmon said.

“It’s never been easy,” Baril said, noting that when she and her husband adopted Peter, they had to wait an extra three months because of a bureaucratic mix-up and needed help from former U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, a long-time Republican congressman from Davenport.

“We are very fortunate to have our son in our lives,” Baril said. “We gained from the experience.”

Congress watches

The law that Putin said he will sign represents an about-face for Russian adoptions. In July, the Russian Parliament approved a long-awaited agreement to simplify the adoptions by Americans.

Russia was the third-most popular country for international adoptions in 2011. Only China and Ethiopia had more.

Many American families turn to international adoption after being frustrated by a shortage of healthy U.S. infants or long waits for private adoptions. Others are drawn by interest in foreign cultures or a desire for a child of a specific gender.

Iowa congressmen are monitoring the situation and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is among 16 senators to sign a letter telling Putin the “overly broad law would have dire consequences for Russian children.”

Based on statistics from recent years, there are at least 1,000 Russian children in the process of being adopted by American families at any given time, according to the senators’ letter.

So if Putin signs the law, “thousands of Russian children living in institutions may lose an opportunity to become part of a family,” the letter said.

They appealed to Putin’s “spirit of compassion for voiceless children … so this sad turn of events will not lead to harm to so many innocent children.”

More than 50 children are in line to be adopted in the next few weeks who would have to remain in Russia, according to a spokesman for Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa. The State Department’s embassy in Russia would be unable to issue visas required for adopted children to travel to the U.S., his spokesman said.

Max Rollins, in the meantime, got his undergraduate degree in Iowa in the Russian language and works to balance his American life with his Russian heritage. He does not think he has relatives in the country, but he intends to visit it from time to time.

“I do want to travel there, but I don’t want to live there,” he said.

(Times Bureau reporter James Q. Lynch contributed to this report.)

(10) comments

Support the Vote

It is sad that politics play a role in finding good homes for children. Friends of mine adopted from Russia and it has been a wonderful connection for the child and parents.

senor citizen

Children are children the world 'round, every child deserves a home and family.


There are no shortages of US born babies to adopt. Why go out side of the U S when we have children here at home that need to be adopted. We should take care of our own before rushing off to take care of someone else’s children’s


Not just red tape, but the costs. Ive seen some adoption agencies in the U.S. charge tens of thousands to adopt. If the parents pass a background check, and can prove they have the financial means to take care of a kid, they should get them. There are a lot of very good people who would love to adopt and give a kid a good home, they just cant get through all the red tape and costs. The goal of an orphanage should be to find kids good homes not to see how much money they can get out of people. There's a reason so many people look overseas to adopt, and its sad knowing there are a lot of good kids in this country that get passed over.


I know a very loving couple that have already adopted a child here in Iowa. They wanted to adopt another child. But, the red tape and cost is hampering their efforts. I would have no problem vouching for these two. They are some of the most loving people I have met. But, there is another child missing the opportunity to feel their love because of the mess they put them through.
So sad that children are being reunited with abusive parents in our court systems, while others sit in foster care for years and years. Yet, even more children are in orphanages here in this country.


Unfortunately, there are many children in Russia who are considered "unadoptable" in their own country -- children with disabilities that would be easily dealt with in our country, such as Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, etc. Parents are advised to institutionalize their children if they're born with these conditions, and those who choose to keep their child find very few resources to help with their education and care, and they are often shunned by their community. Children like this are put in orphanages as infants, but are usually transferred to adult mental institutions around the age of 6. These are the children you hear about who are left in their beds or tied to chairs for hours at a time, and you try to shut it out of your mind, for there is nothing you think you can do about it -- but there are people from the US who choose these children, who choose to make a difference to one child. Not everyone is called to adopt children with disabilities, or children from less privileged, less enlightened countries -- but that doesn't mean they aren't doing something right and important. If you don't see the point in this, you are entitled to your opinion, but you do not need to express it in a hateful way. Please feel free to personally help all the American orphans you can!
There are adoptions in the works right now that are in jeopardy because of this bill, children who have already met the parents who chose them, who were told they would be going home with a mama and papa -- children who will never understand why no one came for them. No matter what your opinion, I think we can agree that the Russian parliament is using orphans, helpless children, as pawns in their political game. And, as usual, those who are hurt are those who have no voice.


It is a shame but I'm sure there are plenty of other places to adopt.


Is there a shorage of US born babies to adopt? Let Russia tend its own house and we will tend ours.


I totally agree with you on this one! There are thousands of children right here in the USA that need good homes. What child would want to spend most of their lives in an orphanage? There is only one issue that I can think of that would stop them from being adopted, the red tape! Loosen the tape and allow these children the opportunity to be a part of a family. Background checks are very important too. But, there also needs to be follow-up care for years after the adoptions as well. Too many balls have been dropped concerning adopted kids being abused too.


I am a former orphan myself (from the Creche d'Youville Orphanage in Montreal), as I was adopted at age 2+ in 1965. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity my adoptive American parents had to adopt me (and the opportunity I had to be adopted by them). Russian's new policy is a shame and a disgrace. If they are worried about losing Russian babies, then improve social conditions and reduce corruption. Until then, and after then!), get out of the way and allow wonderful adoptive parents to adopt Russian babies. It is not a shame for parents from other countries (including the US) to adopt your babies, but is a shame to try to block this. For shame, Russia!

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