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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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Foreign adoptions safer than Russian ones

Other experts say that, as tragic as Artyem's case is, statistics show that foreign adoptions are safer than Russian ones.

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Ella Pamfilova, chair of the Kremlin's human rights council, says she opposes making Artyem's case into a political distraction. "I know that isolated cases of cruelty to our children adopted in US excite our public opinion," Ms. Pamfilova says. "Measures do need to be taken to prevent such abuses, but we should not switch all attention abroad. The situation with children, adoption, and orphanages inside Russia is much worse. I do not understand people who shed crocodile tears over the fate of our adopted children abroad and fail to notice what' s happening here in our own country."

Some experts say that child abuse is an epidemic that goes largely unnoticed by the Russian media. "In 2008, there were 126,000 cases of violence against children here in Russia, and 1,914 children died, often due to the fault of parents," says Albert Likhachyov, chair of the Moscow-based Children's Foundation, an independent public organization. The case of Artyem is scandalous, but it should not be a cause for freezing international adoptions."

Others argue that the focus on international adoption agencies, which have undergone rigorous checking by Russian authorities in recent years, should not distract from the failure of US-based child protection services to spot and deal with Artyem's case.

"Where were these [US] services?" says Boris Altschuler, head of the Center to Protect Children's Rights, an independent Moscow-based advocacy group. "Why does it seem like this mother had no one to turn to for help?"

Adoption agency responds

The adoption agency that handled Artyem's case, WACAP, which is based in Renton, Wash., has facilitated almost 500 adoptions from Russia over several years. The organization has posted a lengthy response to questions about its work on the Internet, including details of the due diligance it performs on prospective parents and its follow-up procedures.

The agency's Moscow representative, Yekaterina Bridge, says Russian law prevents her from discussing details of Artyem's case, but she says that the Russian authorities have acted competently and she hopes that the emotional media storm won't lead to long-term consequences for foreign adoptions in Russia.
"The process [of international adoptions from Russia] is well-governed and very civilized," she says. "There is a possibility that the process can be derailed, or we could face a ban or moratorium. If you have such a reaction from the mass media and society, it's natural to expect such a consequence...

"But I have so many cases in front of me of children from Russia who have been raised in good American homes," she continues. "In all social work, there are negative examples, but we are changing the lives of children and bringing nations together. I hope we will still be able to do this work."

IN PICTURES: Where Americans adopted children in 2009