Russian Adoptions Barred From US

By Kaytie at Legal Language
Posted on 12/28/2012
In Adoption

Russian adoption is no longer an option for US families. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the controversial Dima Yakovlev bill, which bars Americans from adopting Russian children.

This bill blocks all pending US-Russia adoption cases. Russia is the largest source of adopted children in the US — more than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by the US over the past 20 years.

Prior to signing, Putin stated that “I still don’t see any reason why I should not sign it.”

Russian Adoption Disputes

Russia had previously considered banning adoption to the US. Putin said that the US does not punish Americans suspected of violence toward Russian adoptees.

Dima Yakovlev, for whom the bill is named, was a Russian toddler adopted by Americans. He died in 2008 after his father left him in a hot car for hours. The father was not convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

In 2010, there was an international uproar when a 7-year-old Russian boy was put on a return flight to Russia unaccompanied. The prospective adoptive mother, an American citizen, sent the boy back to Russia with a backpack full of toys and a note. The note said the child was mentally unstable and that she was misled by Russian orphanage workers regarding his mental stability.

The American family paid for the boy to be delivered to social service authorities on his arrival in Moscow, but that was the last straw for Russian authorities.

After the incident, Russia said it would suspend adoptions from the US and took actions to suspend licenses, delay adoptions and negotiate over new adoption rules.

This eventually led to a US-Russia adoption agreement in 2011, aimed at strengthening procedural safeguards in adoptions between the countries. Now this agreement has become null and void.

2011 Adoption Agreement

The agreement promised to better protect the welfare of children and parents involved in the intercountry adoption process.

Under the 2011 agreement, the only adoption agencies that provided intercountry adoption services in Russia needed to be authorized by the Russian government, and Hague-certified. Most problems with abuse in the adoption system occurred with independent adoption agencies.

The agreement also improved post-adoption reporting and monitoring, and required agencies to provide prospective adoptive parents more complete information about their adoptive children’s social and medical histories.

2011 Pre-approval Requirement for Adoptions

Under the 2011 agreement, the Russian government was able to institute a pre-approval requirement for US families adopting from Russia.

Previously, prospective adoptive parents had only received full medical and psycho-social information about the child immediately before their US court proceedings to complete the adoption. The 2011 pre-approval arrangement allowed USCIS to make a preliminary determination on a child’s orphan status and flag any concerns before an adoption took place.

According to USCIS, similar pre-approval schemes have successfully streamlined adoption in other countries. The 2011 procedures did not significantly lengthen the adoption process in most cases.

Russia May Further Bar International Adoption

The Dima Yakovlev bill goes into effect January 1, 2013, making the 2011 adoption agreement irrelevant. What’s more, children rights ombudsman and celebrity lawyer Pavel Astakhov is pushing for Putin to extend the ban to other countries.

However, according to UNICEF’s estimates, there are 740,000 Russian orphans and only 18,000 Russians waiting to adopt a child. Astakhov and Putin must consider these numbers before barring more countries from Russian adoption.

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