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International adoption: What does Russia want for lifting US adoption ban?

US officials are going to Moscow to discuss Russian demands to lift an international adoption ban on children going to the US. In the wake of the Artyem Savelyev case, Russians will likely demand more government oversight of American families.

By Correspondent / April 21, 2010

In this image taken from Rossia 1 TV, 7-year-old adopted Russian boy Artyom Savelyev gets into a minivan outside a police department office in Moscow, April 8, after his American adoptive mother allegedly put him on a one-way flight back to his homeland.

Rossia 1 Television Channel/AP



The suspension of adoptions to the US from Russia appears to have deepened into a freeze.

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But a thaw is not expected until after a US delegation – whose arrival in Moscow has been delayed by the ash cloud from Iceland's volcanic eruption – sits down next week to negotiate a binding accord that could give Russian officials far-reaching powers of supervision over Russian children adopted into American families.

The Russian Foreign Ministry posted a statement about international adoption on its web site this week that appears to harden its earlier position, taken amid a storm of outrage over the case of Artyem Savelyev, who was sent back to Russia alone on an airplane by his adoptive American mother earlier this month.

"The recent egregious example of Artyem Savelyev has shown that adopted children from Russia are defenseless against abusive American parents," the foreign ministry statement says (in Russian). Future adoptions, it adds, "will only be permitted within the framework of a bilateral agreement with the US... " No other resolution will be possible, it concludes.

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Some 3,000 U.S. applications for adopting Russian children are now in limbo, according to the Joint Council on International Children's Services, which represents many US agencies engaged in international adoption. The group has posted an online petition, already signed by over 25,000 people, asking both US and Russian leaders to move swiftly to end the logjam.

In a statement, the US embassy in Russia said it has not been officially informed of a freeze, "but it appears that the recent controversy has slowed the process down."

Next week's talks will hopefully "establish the basis for a continuation of the adoption process in a way that assures the welfare of Russian children adopted in the United States," it said. But nobody seems to know what precise demands the Russians will make when the US delegation, headed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Michael Kirby, arrives for the consultations in Moscow.

Aside from the insistence that such a deal be formalized, the Foreign Ministry has declined to spell out what Russia actually wants, beyond "effective mechanisms for control over the living conditions of adopted children from Russia and to provide for their reliable legal protection... "

Some experts say there is little that could be added to the already rigorous process carried out by registered international adoption agencies in Russia, which have undergone repeated checks by the Ministry of Science and Education, which oversees adoptions, in recent years.

"It's hard to see any concrete demands on the Russian side," says Alyona Senkevich, Russia coordinator of the Tuscon, Ariz., Hand-in-Hand adoption agency. "It seems mostly rhetorical, ie. 'to guarantee the safety of our children'."