Some U.S. couples hoping to adopt children from Russia are concerned that rising political tensions between the two countries could add further delays to their bids to become parents.
"We’re getting kicked when we’re down," said Kathleen Dorrian, a 41-year-old New York City police officer, who started the process to adopt a child from Russia with her husband, Joseph, 48, in October 2005.
Under new laws Moscow officials say are a step toward limiting the number of children leaving Russia, U.S. agencies that arrange adoptions must seek re-accreditation in Russia in a slow process involving five Russian ministries. For the moment, no U.S. adoption agencies are accredited to organize adoptions in Russia, and Moscow has given no indication of how long the re-accreditation process will take.
"From the beginning everybody was very honest that things aren’t that great in Russia, but just stick with it," Dorrian said. "I think they want to keep these children in the country, to me I think that has a lot to do with it."
The tightening of Russia’s adoption process had long been demanded by nationalist lawmakers shocked by a series of well-publicized murders of Russian children abroad. According to reports in U.S. newspapers, 14 Russian children have been killed by their adopted American parent since the 1990s.
Some U.S. agencies, parents and experts have raised concerns that the accreditation process could become caught up in a rise in political tensions between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"(Adoption is) seen as a fraught issue for Russians in general, which is therefore going to be particularly sensitive to changes in U.S.-Russia relations," said Cathy Nepomnyashchy, director of the Harriman Institute of Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European studies at Columbia University in New York.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have hit a new low over a U.S. plan to protect itself and European allies from what Washington thinks is a growing ballistic missile threat in part by building a shield in Central Europe. Moscow fears the United States could convert it for use against Russia
Russia Suspends Work of All Foreign Adoption Agencies, Cites Technical Reasons
By MARIA DANILOVA
MOSCOW Apr 12, 2007 (AP)— Authorities said Thursday they have halted the work of all foreign adoption agencies in Russia for several months, virtually shutting down the placement of children from one of the most important countries for U.S. families seeking to adopt.
The move follows new restrictive rules imposed by China on Americans trying to adopt and U.S. warnings against adopting from Guatemala. The two countries account for the highest number of children coming to the United States.
The licensing delay in Russia is due to a law that took effect last year that imposed strict new rules on non-governmental organizations, including more complicated registration procedures. The rules were imposed after Russian officials complained that Western-funded groups were meddling in politics across the former Soviet Union.
Sergei Vitelis, an official at the Education Ministry’s department in charge of adoptions, said 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.
That leaves only one alternative for foreign families to adopt without using an agency. But adoption agencies say such adoptions are rare.
Vitelis said the delay was caused solely by technical reasons. "There are no political or other motives here," he said.
The suspension of most adoptions comes amid heightened political tensions between Russia and the U.S., and Russia’s strengthened sense of national pride under President Vladimir Putin. Some here say the crisis has a political dimension.
"It’s such a misfortune: children are suffering, children are locked in those hospitals, those baby houses where God knows what is being done to them," said Boris Altshuller, head of a Moscow-based nonprofit group, Right of the Child. "All they (lawmakers) care about is waging a Cold War with America and their argument is literally that Russian children must live in Russian land."
Western governments have also expressed concern about the new law, saying it curtails civil freedoms.
Authorities have halted the work of all foreign adoption agencies in Russia for several months pending re-licensing, virtually shutting down the placement of children from one of the most important countries for U.S. families seeking to adopt. The shutdown was blamed on a new law that imposes strict new rules on nongovernmental organizations after Russian officials complained that Western-funded groups were meddling in the country’s politics.