(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: When Michael Dudko and Olga Rudnieva, two prospective parents, wish to adopt a child, the law and the adoption agencies place certain restrictions and requirements on the arrangement. Filmmakers Dudko and Rudnieva, themselves entering the adoption process, were filming when a Ukrainian agency denied Sir Elton John and his male partner's application to adopt a child. The filmmakers use this incident as a springboard to look at many of the issues raised internationally by the adoption process. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

When a parentless child is too young to take care of himself and there are people who want to take care of him, it seems only reasonable that they should. However, the issue is much more complex than that. There are people with all sorts of reasons to stand in the way of the adoption. The issue becomes even more complex if the adoptive parents are from one country and the child is from another. What seems like an unreasonable criterion to one government to reject an application may seem a reasonable restriction to another government or adoption agency. This adds up to more than a monumental headache.

Michael Dudko and Olga Rudnieva were planning to adopt a child and apparently were filming the process. At the same time Sir Elton John and his life partner David Furnish were trying to adopt an HIV positive boy from the Ukraine. But they ran into a problem. Ukrainian law does not recognize gay marriage and unmarried people are not allowed to adopt a child. Permission to adopt was denied. Intuitively it seems the Ukrainian government was harming the boy by trying to save him from what would seem to be a much better situation. The filmmakers decide to look at the issue of the problems standing in the way of many adoptions.

The filmmakers start by examining what is the "right to have children." For most couples the only real requirement is that they have to have sex. However, from the very first of the documentary the text blurs the lines of the issue. The Ukrainian government never actually denied Elton John's right to have children. Instead they are not allowed by law to accept a gay relationship as "a marriage," so are not allowed by Ukrainian law to participate in the adoption. That is a subtle distinction. But to the best of my knowledge there is nobody who has formally given anybody a "right to have children." (Though restrictions on having children has been applied as in China's one-child rule.) Generally people just have children if they want to and can do so without ever looking at the question of rights. And an adoption agency does have some responsibility to evaluate the prospective parents and environment. The issue in Ukraine is not really the right to have children but the lack of recognition of gay marriage. This distinction that the film misses hangs over much of what follows in the film. The real contention is with the legislators who created this arguably unjust law.

The filmmakers look at many different issues. They examine international adoptions. One couple wanting to adopt a child from China were led on by promises from the adoption agency and after spending three years and $25,000 they gave up on the possibility. There are no international acceptance criteria for adoptive parents so people wanting to be parents have to face a patchwork of international laws. Frequently, adopting parents have to meet seemingly capricious criteria. We hear that one couple was rejected for being overweight.

There are special racial restrictions on adoption. In some places you cannot adopt children across racial lines. Other places you are encouraged to adopt across racial lines. There, adopting white children is more expensive than adopting children of other races. As we are told there are approximately 132,200,000 orphans worldwide and only 250,000 will find a home this year. KIDS' RIGHTS is a comprehensive look at the unexpectedly complex requirements and issues surrounding adoption. It gives more an understanding of the obviously frustrating situation than it does any sort of solution. One would think that adoption is a charitable act that should be encouraged. Instead it is a nightmare of aggravation. I rate KIDS' RIGHTS a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The title does not seem to quite fit the film. It is not about kids' rights, but adoptive parents lack of rights.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper