Russia will vote on banning U.S. adoption

"Children are not rockets or torpedoes for governments to use against each other"

Latitude News staff By Latitude News staff

An orphan boy lies on his bed in the children’s ward of a hospital in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. (Reuters)

Want to adopt a Russian child? You might be out of luck.

Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, could vote this week on a bill that would ban Americans from adopting Russian children, according to various reports by local media outlets.

“I think it will be approved,” Deputy Speaker Sergei Neverov tells RIA Novosti, Russia’s official news agency.

The bill would also prevent American adoption agencies from working in Russia.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. judicial system fails to ensure . . . adequate punishment for crimes against adopted Russian children,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Adoption has become a flashpoint for tension between Russia and the U.S., with Russian officials contending that American parents routinely abuse Russian children in the U.S. on the basis of a handful of high-profile cases. The number of adoptions from Russia fell from a peak of 5,862 in 2004 to 962 in 2011 as the issue became a political football.

Russia lifted a temporary moratorium on U.S. adoption in November 2012 after the two countries reached a bilateral agreement that many hoped would end the international adoption controversy.

But since its passage relations have only gotten worse.

A history of controversy

The adoption ban will be attached to a larger bill named after Dima Yakovlev, a Russia toddler who died in Virginia in 2009 after his adoptive American father left him alone in a parked car for nine hours. The father was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

The Yakovlev bill will prevent Americans whose adopted Russian children died under their care from traveling to Russia. Also on the list: Americans associated with the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

It could go into effect as soon as January 2013.

“What bothers us most aren’t the [adoption] tragedies, although they are the scariest thing that could happen, but rather authorities’ reaction to them — exoneration. That’s the bad part,” Vladimir Putin told Russian lawmakers.

The Russian legislation is itself a response to a bill passed by Congress last week that criticized Russia over the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a corruption-fighting lawyer. That bill also repealed Cold War-era trade restrictions. Its benefits proved short lived, as Russia soon announced a ban on the import of U.S. beef, hurting American ranchers who had hoped to profit from an expanded Russian market.

“Orphaned children could become collateral damage in this round of international politicking,” says Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council For Adoption, in a statement released to Latitude News.  “The proposed Russian amendment is a punitive, excessive, and highly unfortunate reaction to a U.S. policy that has absolutely nothing to do with intercountry adoption.

Left unmentioned in the Duma’s debate over adoption? The perilous future faced by orphans in Russia. Without the outlet of U.S. adoption, reports The Moscow Times, many Russian orphans – particularly those with mental and physical disabilities – will be left to live out their days “warehoused in Soviet-era institutions located in remote rural areas.

Russia currently has around 650,000 orphans.

“It’s pure politics and an attempt at blackmail,” Alexander Gezalov, who works with orphans in Russia, tells The Moscow Times. “Children are not rockets or torpedoes [for governments to use against each other].”