Russia's Medvedev to sign international adoption accord
When Russian President Medvedev visits Washington this week, he will sign a new agreement on international adoption.
When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits Washington this week, he and US President Barack Obama are expected to shake hands on a nearly completed US-Russia adoption accord that will stave off some Russian calls for a ban on foreign adoptions.Skip to next paragraph
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The terms under which an American family can adopt a child from one of Russia's brimming orphanages has created almost as many bilateral headaches in recent years as big strategic issues like arms control or NATO expansion. Experts say the accord may well lay the worst controversies to rest.
"The agreement we've negotiated is simple and understandable. And it's not only our side that needs it but also American families" looking to adopt Russian children, says Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin's ombudsman for children's rights. "It will give everyone more confidence in the process and provide some [legal] guarantees as well."
According to Mr. Astakhov, the deal will end all independent adoptions from Russia and place the process squarely in the hands of a few international adoption agencies that have been vetted and accredited by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. (View a list of currently accredited agencies here.)
It will also require prospective parents to undergo special training, for which they will receive certification, and mandate regular reports on the progress and conditions Russian children find in their adoptive homes. In extreme cases, Russian authorities will be able to press charges against negligent parents and repatriate the child.
"This agreement will serve as a legislative basis for the whole adoption procedure," says Astakhov. "In future, if a [Russian-born] child finds himself in a complicated situation, we'll be able to trace what happens to him and, if necessary, bring him back home to find an adoptive family in Russia."
In the past 15 years, US families have adopted around 60,000 Russian children, of whom 17 have died in their adoptive American homes, in some cases as a result of parental abuse. These episodes have led to frequent Russian crackdowns on foreign adoptions, including one lengthy freeze three years ago.
But the story of 8-year old Artyom Savelyov, who was sent back to Russia alone by his adoptive mother with a note of rejection in April, triggered a storm of controversy. Some members of the Russian Duma, or lower house of parliament, called for a permanent halt to all international adoptions.
About 3,500 Russian children are currently in the process of being adopted by American families. Although the machinery has been slowed in the past three months, threats of a complete suspension did not materialize.
Experts say the agreement soon to be signed will be retroactive, which will enable Russian authorities to prosecute Artyom's adoptive mother, Torry Hansen of Tennessee, for returning her son to Russia with a note claiming he had severe psychological problems and posed a danger to the family.