Russian adoption to US suspended
Russian adoption to the US was suspended Thursday after a US family put their adopted child on a plane back to Russia. A US government delegation will travel to Moscow next week to clarify rules for international adoptions.
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"Everyone was in a state of shock when this story broke, and journalists made it into a big sensation," says Alyona Senkevich, Russia coordinator of the Arizona-based Hand-in-Hand adoption agency. "But people are calming down and realizing that such things, awful and unsupportable as they are, do happen. Many Russian families find they can't cope and give back their adoptive children. I hope that a solution will be found."Skip to next paragraph
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Nina Astanina, a member of the Russian State Duma's committee on family, women, and children, on Wednesday introduced a draft law to set a moratorium on adoptions of Russian children to the US until a special bilateral agreement on adoptions is signed between the two countries. Mr. Medvedev has also called for such an accord, and the suspension announced Thursday appears to be an official response to that pressure.
"This is not about Artyem Savelyev's story – the reasons are deeper," says Ms. Astanina. "There has to be a certain state policy, our children have to be protected, if necessary, they might even be returned to their Motherland."
The new adoption agreement should include conditions under which Russian authorities will authorize all adoptions and the adoptive parents will agree to follow strict regulations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week.
Experts say the essential Russian demand is that adoptive children would retain their Russian citizenship until the age of 18 and that Russian authorities -- through consulates abroad -- would have some powers to supervise the welfare of the children in their adoptive homes. This idea has not been acceptable to the US in the past, but some version of it will likely come under discussion in the talks next week.
The US delegation, headed by principal deputy assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Michael Kirby, will be under considerable pressure to come to terms with the Russians. Around 22,000 people have already signed an online petition, sponsored by the Joint Council on International Children's Services, an independent advocacy group, that asks presidents Medvedev and Barack Obama to take action to punish those guilty of child neglect while preserving the opportunities for thousands of American families who are hoping to adopt Russian children.
Russia has almost 800,000 children in state custody, the vast majority of them "social orphans" who have been abandoned by or taken away from still-living parents. Only a small fraction are adopted or placed in foster homes each year.
"I would say to American families that are in the process of adoption, not to worry too much," US Ambassador Beyrle said in a statement Thursday. "We're working on this and we really don't think that this will have any long-term effect on the ability of American families to adopt here."
But Artyem's case has undeniably touched a raw nerve in Russia, and not only nationalistic politicians are calling for an end to foreign adoptions.
"I think our departments that supervise cases of adoption are not working well," says Tatiana Gurko, head of family research at the official Institute of Sociology in Moscow. "They still allow foreign firms that sell [Russian] children to work here.... When a child is adopted by a Russian family, at least we can exercise some control, but how can we control the situation abroad? There is a very high chance of psychological incompatibility in the case of [foreign] adoption," she argues.