Heartrending Photos of Russian Orphans

On rare occasions, a photo stops your racing mind in its tracks.   That happened today with not just one, but a dozen images shot by photojournalist Kate Brooks.   Each one gripped my heart and squeezed it.   Precious lives…children created in the image of God…yet tasting each day the full bitterness of our world’s brokenness…not mainly in a single sharp moment of violence…but in day after day, year after year of the isolation and stagnation of callous institutions.

The description on the website explains, “In Russia orphans with mental and physical disabilities or learning disorders are classified into one of three categories: debil, imbecile or idiot. Those labeled as imbeciles and idiots are permanently institutionalized while still toddlers.”

Those who stand between the many orphans who wait for families and the families who wait to gladly receive them would do well to grapple with the realities these photos reveal.

See the series of photos on Kate’s website here.

Boy in Russian Orphanage

  • Stacy Boulan

    They need a home, help…..NOT an institution!!!!!

    • maramures2020

      Yes every human being deserves a life that they were given. Try telling that to the system that doesn’t believe in that, otherwise changes would have been made throughout the 20 years of when all this was discovered back in the early 90’s.

    • Thomas Offal

      If American families who adopted Russian kids stopped murdering them, dumping them on orphanage doorsteps with a note pinned to their coat saying the didn’t want them any more (in 2012. 2 years AFTER the Torry Hansen debacle: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2113909/American-woman-abandons-adopted-Russian-twins-15-months-St-Petersburg-street.html), “re-homing” them with dangerous strangers they met on an internet chat board (http://www.reuters.com/investigates/adoption/#article/part5) and our government actually bothered to hold up its end of the adoption treaty with Russia maaaaybe the ban would get lifted!

      • John

        Mr. Offal, your stereotyping and broad brushstrokes about the adoptive community are most unfortunate, and frankly, offensive. There are indeed some stories of adoptions that end terribly – these seem to garner news coverage, and they make my blood boil. Nonetheless, there are also many heart-warming stories of adoptions (look around this very CAFO website). Surely you aren’t suggesting that the children in these startling and disturbing photographs should suffer further because some people have acted reprehensibly, that there’s no argument for adoption because sometimes it is an abused system? Don’t you agree that something should be done?

        And, I’ll admit to you that I have a bias about this matter…our son, adopted from Russia at nine months back in ’04, has fairly serious autism and other difficulties. I have no doubt his condition would have resulted in harsh treatment – perhaps being physically tied to a bed or bench, as some of these little ones are, had he stayed in the orphanage system. I weep as I see these photos and think of what he might have experienced…and pray somehow God will open doors to help the thousands of orphans who suffer in this way.

        • Thomas Offal

          The adoption “problems” that make your blood boil are evidence of systemic issues in international adoption — the current practices for screening prospective parents cannot even manage to screen out the sort of people who abuse/kill their newly adopted kid, like little Hyunsu O’Callaghan. Adoption done wrong kills. A whole lot of adoption from Russia’s been done spectacularly wrong.

          It’s irrational and irresponsible to demand russia allow Americans to adopt their kids without doing SOMETHING, anything to demonstrate the systemic issues that led to Chase Harrison, Masha Allen, Max Shatto etc are being addressed.

    • womanofcanada

      Can you adopt children from here? I’d be happy to help

  • Dina Ackermann

    Just had a good cry. This is why we cannot grow weary in our work to be a voice for orphans and vulnerable children.

  • DSP

    These pics are horrible. What will your alliance do to help change these conditions? When? Do you need people to sign a petition? (I will.) Do you have a sister organization in Russia that can help? What’s the plan now that you’ve seen and shared the pictures?

  • Mrs C

    Russia gas spent a fortune on the winter Olympic it’s a shame a third of that money didn’t help these poor babies.

    • Alex

      I feel the same way about our own military spending. 700 billion per year!

  • Sue


  • Sue

    How does this still happen in to days world. I wish I could scoop them all up and bring them home! What measures at this time are being taken to get these children out of this horrific living condition and to stop further treatment to future children to not suffer of this magnitude? This is not a Russian issue. This is a human rights issue. I know that in all lands all over the world this kind of abuse is present. Something has got to be done. What can be done? Those who took the pictures and posted these, what are your efforts now in being a advocate for these beautiful innocent victims? How could I help?

  • Katrina Morriss

    Thank you so much for posting about the forgotten children in Russia. We are one of the families caugth in the adoption ban. We were trying to adopt a little girl with Down syndrome who is now 8 years old. She is in a very good orphanage but even her director has said in interviews that it is not the same as a family. I recently did a guest post here and talked some about those of us who were not able to complete our adoptions and the children left behind http://babynumber10.blogspot.com/2014/02/broken-promises-post-that-needs-to-go.html

  • maramures2020

    Its sad to see countries lack of providing care for its children and that some believe that children are raised well in orphanages as if they were raised at home. It seems that its a never ending story with how much kids suffer.

  • Christina

    yes, what can be done to help? I have two special needs children and it is so hard to see these children in such misery.

  • CSM HS Phinazee

    We also have American children that are in dire need, let’s stay focused at home.

    • ChinaMomma

      I think there are enough of us to focus at home and abroad. Can you show me where in the Bible is says we need to choose?

    • sandie

      Why ??? Help dont stop at color, religion and country.

    • D

      If you know of a place in the U.S where children are being treated in this manner for goodness sake stop commenting on blog posts and call the police.

  • kimc

    This is awful! I hope something is done to help these children. x

  • Renee Bakkemo

    Just so so horrible.. How can I help?

  • kimgiffordstewart

    Having adopted a child from Russia in 1999 at age 3 years, I know the realities of the Russian orphanages. Our son was in a baby home and from what we could tell it was clean, bright and the kids were clean and cared for as best as they could be. There are much worse realities for the older kids and those who are special needs. After age 3 these kids are sent to the older kids homes or special needs homes, where there caregiver ratio could be 1 to 100 kids. Russia’s move to close adoptions to the US is a political retaliation and only hurts them and the Russian orphans. When we brought our son to a Dr in Moscow to be checked out before we flew home, he had “rickets” which causes weakness and shaky legs due to vitamin D deficiency, he was 3 and only weighed 18 lbs! We later found out he had FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Russia has much work to do in educating it’s people about the effects of drinking while pregnant. It was hard for me to watch Russia spend 50 billion on hosting the games when that amount of money could have been used to care properly for their orphans and improve the orphanage system in general. Putin can put on a great show to try and convince the world of Russia’s power and that they are an emerging country, but the ultimate truth is that they are not even caring humanely for their own orphaned children. God sees the truth of the situation. It’s hard to forget about these hidden children once you have been there and seen it for yourself.

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  • mihail able

    In what year were made these photos? 5 years after the collapse of the USSR?

    Why the US did not help Russia during the economic crisis? Do you think a lot of wishing to adopt these children? Americans to adopt these children? Lies! They do it very rarely. Other countries do not adopt these children. Enough hypocrisy. 5 million Russian died during the economic crisis. Do not talk about the Olympics. Olympics were last year. People in Russia died during the pro-American “democratization” These children are the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union.