Siberia bans U.S. adoptions

By Nicholas Nehamas

In what could preview a broader decision by the Russian government, Siberia’s regional parliament has ruled that Americans may no longer adopt children from the Russian province. According to an article in The Voice of Russia, two Siberian children died after being adopted by American families. Last year, a third girl was molested by her adoptive American father.

Pavel Astakhov wants better protections for Russian children adopted by American families. (Reuters).

The decision comes a week after Russia’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, Pavel Astakhov, made a controversial visit to the U.S. Astakhov traveled to Lincoln County in Montana to visit the Ranch for Kids, a group home. The ranch takes in Russian children, many of them suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, who are too violent or disruptive for their adoptive American parents to handle.

“Places like this should not exist”

Astakhov claims that the ranch is abusive. “Places like this should not exist,” he told The Voice of Russia. “The conditions there are no better than those in a reservation. Children are merely kept there.”

He criticized a lack of teaching, saying there is only one teacher for the 30 children of different ages in residence there. He also complained that the site lacks security at night and the nearest hospital is a two-hour drive away. He added that a Montana children’s rights group says the ranch lacks a proper fire safety system.

The ranch’s owner, Joyce Sterkel, previously told Latitude News that the children are well-treated. She called Astakhov “a publicity hound” and didn’t allow him to set foot on her property.

Adoption remains a point of tension in U.S.-Russian relations, though the two countries signed a bilateral agreement on the issue in July 2011. The Russian Duma, or parliament, is currently debating the deal, which would allow orphans to go to America only if a Russian family cannot be found for them.

Last year, according to U.S. State Department data, Americans adopted only 962 children, down from a peak of 5,862 in 2004.

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