Russian Foreign Ministry demands inspection of Montana ranch

After revelations that a ranch for adopted kids lacked a license, Moscow cries foul

By Nicholas Nehamas

Russia wants Washington to give its officials “unhindered access” to a group home for troubled adopted children, RIA Novosti reports.

“We demand that official Russian representatives are provided the possibility of unhindered visits to Russian children at the Ranch for Kids,” a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said to RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency.

“This issue is under control,” the press attaché at the Russian embassy in Washington D.C. tells Latitude News. “We have fully informed U.S. officials about our concerns.”

Speaking on background, a U.S. State Department official confirmed they had put the embassy in touch with “appropriate authorities in Montana.”

Earlier this week, Latitude News broke the story that the Ranch for Kids, near Eureka, Montana has been operating without a license for more than two years. The ranch’s owner, Joyce Sterkel, says her facility is a religious organization and doesn’t need a license.

Beautiful vistas can’t keep the Ranch for Kids from a high-profile international dispute with Russia. (Ranch for Kids)

Ten of the 25 children now living at the ranch are Russian. The kids suffer from serious developmental disabilities like fetal alcohol syndrome, and can be emotionally volatile and even violent. Their adoptive parents sent them to the ranch for treatment. Sterkel has been widely praised for her work, including positive accounts in the American media. But high-ranking Russian officials have accused her of abuse, calling the ranch “a penal colony” and a “trashcan for unwanted children.”

The controversy has raised accusations of jingoism on both sides. Writing about the ranch on RIA Novosti, John Robles says: “Time and time again, in almost every aspect of Russian-Western relations, we have seen anti-Russian hysteria and pseudo-political correctness raise its ugly head.”

Meanwhile, Alexander Romanov, an employee of the World Links International Adoption agency, tells The Moscow Times: “Some people [in Russia] live with a strange mentality. They absolutely believe that American parents adopt Russian children for spare parts. There was even a deputy prosecutor general — I don’t remember his name — who said, ‘It’s better to let our orphans die here than go to our ideological enemy.'”

Tensions between the two nations are high: earlier this month, provincial lawmakers in Siberia banned the adoption of children by Americans.

Russia and the U.S. have signed a bilateral agreement on adoption. The deal is expected to ensure that American parents receive full medical records on the Russian children they are considering adopting. It will also allow Russian officials to monitor the upbringing of adopted Russian kids in America.

Straight to the Source