The clash over international adoptions between Russia and the United States is reaching a resolution with the Russian parliament passing a new agreement on inter-country adoption.
The agreement was created by the two countries a year ago, but only recently ratified by Russia’s parliament, known as the Duma. The agreement must now be given the green light by the upper house (Federation Council) and by Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Talk of needed change in the handling of international adoptions first arose due to concerns over the mistreatment of orphaned children adopted by American parents. It has been reported that 19 Russian children have died while in the care of American adoptive parents.
In one infamous case, a Tennessee mother “returned” her adopted seven-year old son because of alleged behavioural problems. She sent him back to Russia alone by plane, inviting outrage from across the world over her actions. In the wake of the dispute, some adoption agencies even froze the processing of their Russian cases.
However, the new agreement contains more child protection provisions. For instance, foreign adoptions are only to be conducted through agencies registered in Russia. These agencies must monitor the children once they have left the country, ensure social workers visit and report back to Russian authorities.
Adoptive parents will also get more information on the children’s backgrounds, including medical history. In addition, they will be better prepared with psychosocial training.
The US State Department has weighed in on the news, voicing its approval.
“This marks a significant milestone toward the agreement coming into effect, which will provide additional safeguards better to protect the welfare and interests of children and all parties involved in inter-country adoptions,” affirmed the US Embassy in Moscow.
“The ratification of the agreements creates a legal framework for us to take care of children who have already left and those whose cases are being processed now,” said Pavel Astakhov, Russia's Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights to Russian media.
Mr. Astakhov has recently spoken out against a care facility in Montana, which he accuses of being a “trash can for unwanted children,” reports the Times Colonist.
The facility, called the Ranch For Kids Project, is run by Joyce Sterkel. Ten of the 25 troubled children who live there are Russian. A number of children come from other countries, too. They have suffered difficulties from the alcohol and drugs their mothers took while pregnant or from living in orphanages in their early years.
“They are living with parents who love them very much, they just need help with behaviour issues," Ms. Sterkel said in the Montreal Gazette.
Though Ms. Sterkel disputes it, Mr. Astakhov believes it to be a place where undwanted adopted children get subpar health care and education along with inadequate security.
For a cost of $3,500 each month, parents can send their children to live on the ranch on a month-by-month basis.
According to the US State Department, Russian officials have been assisted in making their concerns known to Montana authorities.
About 3,400 children are adopted out of Russia each year. Nine hundred of them go to the United States. Indeed, the country is the third-most popular for adoptive parents, behind China and Ethiopia.
Domestic adoption is not widespread in Russia, where there are 740,000 Russian children without parental care, says data from the United Nations Children's Fund. Orphans may live in overcrowded institutions and not in family-based care—the alternative preferred by child welfare specialists.