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In theory Russia is open for foreign adoption, but in practice adoptions are temporarily suspended. Russia is not accepting new applications except from agencies it has re-accredited, and that process is lengthy. Adoptions from Russia faced a slowdown starting in 2005 because of many legislative and bureaucratic changes. Reacting to a series of well-publicized murders of Russian children abroad -- mainly in the United States -- legislators passed a law in 2006 banning adoptions through unaccredited agencies. In addition agencies had to start from scratch and gain accreditation over again, which involved getting approvals from five Russian ministries. That process is proving to be cumbersome -- for example, no U.S. agencies are currently accredited in Russia, preventing Americans from applying to adopt Russian orphans. Re-accrediting of foreign agencies started in early 2007, but it will be a while before agencies can operate again and before adoptions return to their previous levels.
Editor Harriet Fancott wrote in AFABC's Focus on Adoption, (June/July 2000) that Russian adoptions were on hold until further notice; only adoptions now before the courts in Russia would proceed. She cited the Moscow Times of Apr. 22, 2000: the government has decreed that only accredited agencies may represent adoptive parents. It would take months to accredit agencies. There are some 80,000 children available for adoption in Russia, many with special needs. In 1999 foreigners adopted 6,200 of them. 208 came to Canada (88 to Ontario; 74 to Quebec; 33 to B.C.). [ AFABC, www.bcadoption.com ]
Family Helper reported in May 2000 that new adoption regulations in Russia looked like slowing down adoptions from Russia for months, while agencies are accredited. The last slowdown in Russian adoptions was in 1996, when new 1995 adoption legislation was being implemented. Pat Fenton of the Adoption Council of Ontario reported that officials of the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services notified ACO that Russia has introduced new legislation, effective April 20, 2000 and adoptions from Russia are now on hold while the implications of the new legislation are studied. [ Adoption Council of Ontario, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.adoption.on.ca ]
Cynthia Teeters of Eastern European Adoption Coalition (EEAC) wrote in April 2000 that there was no talk of a moratorium; parents who had accepted referrals would be allowed to complete the adoption. On May 10, 2000 the Russian government will start accrediting adoption agencies. Families will have to make two trips to Russia, the first to identify a child, the second to complete the adoption. Some regions in Russia already require two trips. [ --EEAC, email@example.com, eeadopt.org ]
Orphan numbers rise -- Pravda reported May 13, 2004 that the number of orphans and foster children is increasing in Russia -- from 496,300 in 1994 to 867,800 as of Jan. 1, 2003. Only 10% are orphans because of death or disablement of the parents; the rest are social orphans. About 7,000 Russian children were adopted abroad in 2003, more than were adopted domestically.
In May 2004 the Duma proposed a parliamentary inquiry into the international adoption of Russian children. The head of a Duma committee said that "agencies that do not have proper authorization to do so still act as brokers in this practice," and recommended that Russia negotiate bilateral treaties with other countries.
The May 28, 2004 Moscow Times reported that the inquiry call seemed to be a reaction to a TV report about some Russian children who were killed by their adoptive parents.
Orphans listed for six months before adoption abroad -- A new Russian law took effect Jan. 10, 2005 that increases to six months, from three, the time that orphans must be on the federal data bank registry before they are eligible for international adoption. This will increase the chance they can be adopted domestically.
Foreign adoptions to resume -- The Moscow Times reported that the Education Ministry will oversee foreign adoptions of Russian children, ending the bureaucratic confusion that put foreign adoptions on hold for months. Since last March, no ministry was assigned the job of accrediting adoption agencies, with the result that licences to operate in Russia lapsed and most adoptions from Russia could not be processed. Some 700,000 children under 16 living in Russia are eligible for adoption, and about 15,000 of them are adopted each year, according to the ministry. More than half of those children are adopted by foreign parents. [Washington Times, Mar. 22, 2005 ]
Agencies get approval -- On May 17 the Ministry of Education reaccredited 23 U.S. adoption agencies and is reviewing the remaining applications for reaccreditation. The Ministry has also stated that, while compliance with the post-adoption reporting requirement is only one of several criteria considered in the reaccreditation process, even one missing post-placement report may cause loss of accreditation. (Agencies are supposed to file reports by a social worker on the child's medical status and development 6, 12, 24 and 36 months after the adoption.) [State Dept., May 24, 2005]
Agencies await accreditation -- The Canadian Embassy in Moscow reported that of five Canada-based agencies working in Russia, four are waiting for their accreditation to be renewed. "We are very concerned about the slowdown in adoptions and the review of agencies," said a Canadian Embassy official. "Many adoptions are on hold, because they cannot be finalized until the agency accreditation issue is cleared up." Visas granted to Canadian adoptive parents fell by a third in the first half of 2005, the Embassy said. [Canadian Press NewsWire, July 4, 2005]
Rule changes -- The Education Ministry is planning to change the rules so that Russian children may be adopted only through accredited organizations, eliminating "independent" adoptions carried out through middlemen. Prospective parents will have to undergo an independent psychological assessment and take a special educational course. In 2005, the Education Ministry continued the accreditation for 52 agencies handling the adoption of Russian children by foreigners. Three U.S. adoption agencies were denied accreditation because they failed to submit the required post-adoption reports. According to ministry data there are currently 25 unofficial organizations dealing with the adoption of Russian children by foreigners. [RIA Novosti, en.rian.ru, July 19, 2005]
Russian photolisting database online -- On June 1, 2005 the Education Ministry launched a Russian-language web site (www.usinovite.ru) to provide better access to a database of 260,000 Russian orphans eligible for adoption, along with information on adoption laws and a list of accredited agencies. An English-language version of the site is to follow. Prospective parents can choose a child by hair colour, eye colour or sex. The Education Ministry says the web site has names and photos of the youngsters, each with a description of the child's personality such as "sociable" or "lively".
Law would enforce accreditation -- A Nov. 16, 2005 article by RIA Novosti reports that Russian Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko introduced a bill into the Duma that would allow only agencies accredited in Russia to complete intercountry adoptions, except when adopters are relatives of the child. The minister would ban adoptions via independent foreign agencies. He also urged ratification of the Hague Convention, which Russia signed in 2000. According to the article Fursenko opposed a total moratorium on international adoption. However he suggested an adoption cooperation agreement be signed with each of the 52 U.S. states.
12 U.S. adoption agencies targeted -- (April 19, 2006, Moscow Times, www.moscowtimes.ru/stories/2006/04/19/016.html) The Prosecutor General's Office today urged that 12 U.S. adoption agencies lose their accreditation because they have failed to file post-adoption reports on the status of the Russian children after adoption. Agencies targetted include: Beacon House Adoption Services, Cradle of Hope Adoption Services, Frank Adoption Center-North Carolina, Maine Adoption Placement Service, Adoption Together, ABC Adoption Services, Wake-Up, World Association for Children and Parents, Cradle Society, Commonwealth Adoption International, European Adoption Consultants, Creative Adoption, Adoption Associates.
Russia to ban independent adoptions -- Reuters reported May 23, 2006 that Russia will stop foreigners adopting children using unregistered agencies, or so-called independent adoptions. Sergei Apatenko, head of the Education Ministry's youth department, said that by the end of 2006 independent adoptions of Russian children by foreigners would be banned. Prospective adoptive parents would have to use agencies accredited by Russia. The change was triggered by Russian outrage over a series of deaths of adopted Russian children, highlighted by the killing of a six-year-old Russian boy in Illinois by his American parent, Irma Pavlis, in December 2003. Russian officials said there had been 12 cases of American parents killing adopted Russian children since 1991. On another front, parents were urged to submit their post-adoption reports to the Russian region they adopted from, on the agreed schedule (six months, and one, two and three years after finalizing).
New Zealand halts Russian adoptions -- MosNews.Com in Russia reported on Sept. 15, 2006 that New Zealand has temporarily stopped assessing prospective adoptive parents (home studies) due to impending changes in Russian law which will prevent independent intercountry adoptions, that is, those by unaccredited agencies. In the future, foreigners would have to use an adoption agency in their own country which has been approved by the Russian Ministry of Education as a foreign adoption agency. The agency Inter-country Adoptions New Zealand, which helps facilitate intercountry adoptions for New Zealanders, doesn't yet have accreditation but says it is working on it.
On Nov. 4, 2006 the Russian government adopted Regulation # 654 (which replaces #268 of March 28, 2000). It refined the accrediting process for foreign agencies, for example in having an agency specify not only what services it provides in Russia, but also the cost of those services.
According to Joint Council on International Children's Services the U.S. Embassy in Moscow reported that as of Jan. 19, 56 U.S. adoption agencies had successfully registered with the Ministry of Justice as NGOs. There are currently 14 adoption agencies with both NGO licensing and Ministry of Education accreditation. On Jan. 25, four of the 14 agencies will lose their licenses and will need to reapply.
Alberta Children's Services advised in February 2007 that the Russian government has approved a new decree regulating adoptions. Three Canadian agencies have applied for accreditation in Russia: Adoption Horizons and CHOC, both in Ontario and Choices of B.C. Families with applications in process with these agencies will not be affected, but these agencies cannot send in new applications until they are accredited.
In "Russia curtails American adoptions", USA Today said on Apr. 10, 2007 that Russia has yet to renew any licenses for the 50 or so American agencies working there. "Russia is effectively shutting its doors, beginning today, to most Americans who want to adopt Russian children." Tom DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, said, "We've never had this situation before, where we have no accredited agencies." He says the holdup could last a few months. The number of orphans sent to the U.S. from Russia fell from 5,865 in 2004 to 3,706 in 2006.
In its Apr. 12, 2007 article "Russia Suspends Foreign Adoption Groups", The Associated Press quoted an Education Ministry official saying that the licenses of dozens of agencies working in Russia expired Wednesday and it will take officials about two months to consider applications for new ones. The licensing delay is due to a 2006 law imposing strict new rules on non-governmental organizations. 76 foreign adoption agencies have applied to register as NGOs and to handle adoptions in Russia, and their applications must be reviewed by the Education Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Health Ministry's oversight agency. (While waiting for re-accreditation, agencies are finishing adoptions started before their accreditation expired.) About 260,000 Russian children are listed as orphans and potentially eligible for adoption. However in 2006 only 7,742 orphans were adopted by Russian families and 6,689 by foreigners.
The U.S. State Department wrote in "Update on Adoption Agency Accreditation Delays" (Apr. 25, 2007) that no U.S.-based adoption agencies are currently accredited. The Ministry of Education is reviewing accreditation applications but gives no date for finishing the review. According to the recently-adopted law on re-accreditation, the Ministry of Education can issue a license for accreditation only if it has approval from four other Russian ministries: Health, Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs. Adoptions from Russia to the U.S. have been suspended indefinitely until accreditations are issued.
In Toronto, agency for Russia Caring Homes for Orphan Children said in its Spring 2007 newsletter that it has registered with the Ministry of Justice as a nongovernmental organization and is waiting patiently for the remaining approvals. The process for accreditation is moving slowly, with approval needed from the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and other agencies. It takes up to three months to get an answer from each agency. According to the head of the Russian child protection department: "There are no plans to reduce the number of agencies, each agency will be examined individually by a commission, and it will receive accreditation if there are no complaints against it."
For resources on Russian adoption, see Adoption Resource Central, Country-specific Resources - Russia.
For more on adoption in Russia, see Canadian Guide to Intercountry Adoption.
To find an agency for Russia: Agency chooser, www.familyhelper.net/ad/chooser.html.
Descriptions of agency programs are at www.familyhelper.net/arc/agy.html.
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Country News is written by Robin Hilborn,