Russia Seeks to Make Adoptions by Foreigners Tougher

Russian authorities, angered by rare but resonant cases of abuse of children adopted by foreigners, hope to have a law in place by the end of the year that would ban adoptions organized by groups or individuals without accreditation, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported Tuesday.

The government has approved draft legislation removing what officials call a legal loophole that allows so-called "independent adoptions" and hopes it will be passed by parliament by the end of the year, RIA-Novosti quoted the director of the Education Ministry department responsible for adoption, Sergei Apatenko, as saying.

Russians have been disturbed by the sometimes deadly abuse of Russian children adopted by foreigners -- mostly Americans. Apatenko said that in most cases the abused children were adopted by parents who bypassed accredited agencies, using unaccredited organizations or adopting children from orphanages without middlemen.

Accredited agencies must inform the authorities about the conditions in which children will be raised abroad, he said.

CountryWatch: Russia

Cases of abuse of Russian children adopted by foreigners are rare but have been given high-profile coverage in state-controlled media and led to calls by lawmakers to suspend adoptions by Americans. The Education Ministry said last July that 11 Russian children adopted by U.S. families had suffered violent deaths since 1991.

The Education Ministry has also called for mandatory training programs and psychological testing for prospective foreign parents. It was not immediately clear if those issues were addressed in the legislation Apatenko said would be submitted to parliament in the coming weeks.

Children's advocacy organizations have concurred with the government that measures should be taken to try to ensure that adopted children will not be abused, but also warn that if controls are too tight more children will be doomed to remain in orphanages, where care is often inadequate.

"Of course there must be a system of control," said Paulina Filippova, an expert on children's issues. But while she could not comment on draft legislation she had not seen, she said that in the absence of incentives for Russians to adopt, efforts to "sharply limit foreign adoptions" look like a "populist, xenophobic initiative" that will not address Russia's orphan problem.

Russian rarely adopt because of a social stigma and financial concerns, and Filippova said they are particularly averse to adopting children who are more than two years old, sick or disabled or who come from ethnic minorities. According to the Education Ministry, 9,400 Russian children were adopted by foreigners in 2004, while 6,900 were adopted by Russians other than the child's stepparents.