Adoption controversy stokes U.S.-Russia tensions

Virginia couple accused of abusing adopted Russian boy

By Nicholas Nehamas

A mugshot of Matthew and Amy Sweeney posted on Twitter by a Russian government official.

Another case of Americans allegedly abusing an adopted Russian child has garnered headlines.

A couple in Bristow, Virginia has been arrested for beating their adopted Russian son so badly that he ran away from home. Neighbors called the police when they noticed bruises all over the boy’s body after he showed up at their house and asked for something to eat, The Moscow Times reports.

Matthew and Amy Sweeney adopted Daniel Krichun from the Russian city of Tula when he was a toddler. It’s unclear if the eight-year old suffers from developmental issues like fetal alcohol syndrome, which can make kids violent and difficult to raise and often goes undiagnosed in adopted Russian children until they are brought to the U.S.

The Sweeneys have been charged with felony child abuse and released on $20,000 bail, reports a local Virginia television station.

The Russian foreign ministry wrote on its website Thursday that the incident might jeopardize a new bilateral agreement with the U.S. on adoption.

The deal states that American parents can adopt Russian children only if no Russian families can be found. It will also allow Russian officials greater access to adopted children in America.

However, President Vladimir Putin signed off on the agreement over the weekend, according to Ria Novosti, meaning it will likely go into effect in the next few months.

International conflict

Meanwhile, Russia’s outspoken Children’s Rights Commissioner, Pavel Astakhov, expressed outrage over the Sweeney case: “Yet more sadistic adoptive parents arrested in the United States . . . Every year, more than 28,000 adopted children suffer [at the hands of their] adopted parents in the USA,” he tweeted, according to The Moscow Times.

The Krichun incident is just the latest in a string of high-profile cases involving documented or alleged abuse of Russian adoptees in America.

Astakhov has also strongly criticized the Ranch for Kids in Montana, which takes in adopted Russian children whose severe behavioral problems overwhelm their adoptive parents in America.

On a visit to Montana in June, Astakhov called the ranch a “trashcan for unwanted children” and said it abused children. The ranch’s owner, Joyce Sterkel, denied those charges but a Latitude News investigation discovered the state of Montana had taken away her license in 2010 over safety concerns.

In a recent interview with a Russian website, Astakhov claimed many complaints had been made about the ranch to the local sheriff, including one by two children living there who said they’d been raped by other kids.