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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Moratorium on Russian Adoptions

Is Russia shutting down to American adoptions?  To that question, I would offer a very firm, “Possibly.”

Let’s put it this way, it’s not a good time for Russian adoptions.  Of course, one might argue that it’s never been a good time in the last seven years or so.  Anytime Russia grows upset with America, they take their marbles and go home.

And they take the kids with them.

“Don’t they care about their children-???!!!” you ask, indignantly.

Um, not really.  They don’t care about any of their citizens, except for those who march in step.  Otherwise, the populace is to be used as pawns to further Mother Russia’s aims.

Sad, but true.  The kinder, gentler Russia has not quite come to the birth.

So what about adoptions?

Well, you have to figure that it’s election time in Russia, and that means a lot of sabre-rattling and fancy fencing footwork.  Politicians there wish to rally the people against some outside enemy, so that they might feel united, even when everyone knows that something is rotten in Russia.

No, the problem is not with Russia, the problem is with outsiders, foreigners, those folks abroad who take our children and try to kill them-!  So no mattter that there are anti-Putin rallies in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and several other major cities… America is the problem!

And hence, an adoption slow-down or shut-down.  A moratorium that’s gaining momentum from region to region.  It’s scapegoating gone wild.  Many have written to me and yes, this writer has heard of everything from families in court being sent home childless, to families about to travel on their first trip being told not to come to Russia.

They are pinning much of the problem on the fact that the Duma (Russia’s parliament) has not yet ratified the intercountry adoption treaty with America.  This is the strange, far-reaching treaty that, among other points, allows Russian observers into American homes to observe and check on the little Russian citizens which they adopted-!  Secretary of State Clinton signed for America’s side back in July (thanks—you want to come for chai when the Russians gather ‘round our samovar?).  But the Duma has never ratified the treaty… so let’s make Americans pay for it!

Are you following this reasoning?  The Russian Federation has an interesting thought process that has very little to do with reality.  Rather than deal with the mountain of  skeletons piling up in their own closet, they would rather ooh and aah over the tiny cut on your finger.

Similar to E.F. Hutton, when RF Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov and RF Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speak, regions listen.  Each lower-level official climbs over the next in a hurried effort to comply with orders, or even suggestions, from above.  Their jobs may depend on it.

As someone who has been through national and regional adoption shut-downs in Russia numerous times, I pray that you get your children out (if you’ve already met a specific one or two).  It might be sooner, it might be later, but just hang in there.  Yes, documents expire and have to be redone, and yes, as soon as one crisis is over, the Russians will find another issue designed to make you squirm.  It took four long years to bring home one of our children, but we prevailed and I hope you will, too.

(In case anyone thinks I am anti-Russian, I am not.  My family is Russian-American.  If you want to label me, I am anti-phoney baloney, of which there is a lot in adoptions in general, and Russia in particular.)

I believe that the most recent trigger is not just elections, but a court sentence handed down to the Cravers, an American adoptive family in York, Pennsylvania, who killed their 7-year-old adopted son.  Whether it happened through abuse and neglect (the American version) or was intentional murder on the part of the parents (the Russian version), the sentence was deemed to be too light when handed down at the end of November 2011.

Russian officials cite this particular case, along with the fact that 17 Russian children have ended up dead over approximately 20 years of adoptions (since 1991).  According to a RIA Novosti article of November 18, 2011, Russia has problems of its own:  2,000 domestic abuse deaths of children each year.  So that’s 17 either accidental or intentional deaths of Russian children in America over 20 years where the children are said to not be monitored well enough, or else leave the kids in Russia, where 40,000 would be killed over the same period of time.

Food for thought.  Pawns in pampers who have no rights of their own.

The Agreement itself is not entirely without merit. It includes provisions designed to improve post-adoption reporting and monitoring (as mentioned above).   It also ensures (as much as it can, which leaves me to wonder…) that prospective adoptive parents receive more complete information about adoptive children’s social and medical histories and anticipated needs.


And if this doesn’t happen?

Many parents have been tricked about the condition, mental, physical, or otherwise, of their soon-to-be child.  I believe most, if not all, of the 17 families charged in their Russian children’s deaths snapped because they did not know how severely affected their children were, with everything from Reactive Attachment Disorder to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and all diagnoses inbetween.  How that’s going to change with one stroke of the pen, I don’t know.

Another provision of the Agreement is that adoptive families would only be able to adopt  only through agencies accredited by the U.S. government.  In essence, this would do away with all independent adoptions, which has its pros and cons, mostly the latter.

Look for prices to rise as a few agencies run a monopoly of sorts.  Look for Russian diplomats to stop by for dinner.  Look for Putin to win the elections.

Is it all inevitable?  I sure hope not.





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22 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar sarah says:

    I love this post! It is right on the money. As a mom of 4 – 3 from Russia this is exactly what I see too….oh and St Pete has now gone from a 10 day wait to a 30 day wait. My agency is a big one, so this isn’t a not well connected agency giving their clients garbage. It is amazing what is going on. There is no thought for these kids with no families. It is beyond sad. As a family with many Russian adoptions it would be too much for me to go through a Russian adoption now and we came home with our youngest last year. I couldn’t agree more that something is rotten within there. What will it take to change or will it ever? I really enjoy reading your blog.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thank you, Sarah, I know what you mean. It’s getting worse and worse in many ways. We were telling our kids today about all of the US medicals and then the Russian medicals that we needed to do in order to adopt. Naturally, I didn’t mention the ob/gyn exams that some regions make women go through– in order to adopt-! (I think that would be a deal-breaker for me….) The Russian economy is becoming worse and worse. I talked with a Russian friend over the winter holidays and he said that people were going nuts trying to amuse themselves bec. the general population had no money to travel, or to go out very much. So if their economy continues to tank, it could lower prices, but probably the US agencies would make up for the difference by raising their prices, since adoptions have dropped-! We need to get creative and everyone find a “reason” to go to Russia– do some research for your employer, speak at a convention, be a courier with some non-time-sensitive documents (travel dates are always iffy), etc., which could help pay for some of it. Maybe sublet a stall at one of the Moscow flea markets and sell Dollar store stuff, lol.

  2. avatar Jess says:

    My husband and I returned from our first trip to the Tver Region one week ago. We were given a court date of March 20…..We heard of the possible moratorium the day we returned. This has created a very uneasy feeling in us! We are praying this doesn’t happen. I am curious if it does go into effect, how long will it last? Our agency has advised us that as of yesterday they were doing business as usual, but the unknown is driving us crazy…..

    • avatar admin says:

      Hi Jess, we’ll be praying with you! As you can see, it’s a national issue and the various regions respond in their own time and way. Hopefully, Tver won’t do a thing. There are certain regions where, when orders come, they jump. Others not so much. If it’s truly connected to the elections, it could be over in affected regions in a month or two. If it’s tied to the Treaty/Agreement and the Duma does nothing for months on end, it will be longer. If they choose to act tomorrow, poof! the problem is gone. If it’s politics just to give Americans a black eye, it could be months or years. We have been in very difficult regions that closed for years and we made it through, but at every point, it was like pulling teeth. Try not to think of the what-ifs, just deal with it when and if it happens. Let us know how it’s going– we’re here for you!

  3. avatar Sybil says:

    International adoption – international problems. Then get politics involved in an election year and doesn’t it look heroic to stand up for protection of the children in the orphanages. Sure, that will pull at the comrades heartstrings and result in lots of votes. It would be interesting to know the fates of children adopted by American’s from other countries. Is the rates of death (which is painful to even type) similar. Do children from other countries have as many issues once they are adopted and in their new homes as Russian adoptees?
    Do you think that it is possible for the Russian authorities to give prospective adoptive parents more complete information about adoptive children’s social and medical histories and anticipated needs. My understanding is that there is no psychological help for the children. Maybe this has changed and I am not aware of it, but I doubt it. Also Russian medical diagnosis are made so differently than American diagnosis procedures. This will be a quagmire. Pawns in pampers indeed.

    • avatar admin says:

      Now that’s a good question, Sybil. What are the stats & outcomes of those adopted by Americans from other foreign countries? It’s true that even one child hurt or abused is too much, but I find it hard to believe that parents willingly go through all this trouble and expense just to abuse a child. It happens when the parents are in way over their heads. We adopted our 2nd son from a notorious place where another child had been adopted & then killed by Americans. I’m not sure I’ve fully written about that, maybe I should. We had shutdowns and roadblocks every step of the way. But they warned us over and over that he would destroy our lives. I believe they were finally getting it that many of the kids were not psychologically normal and were trying to prevent similar incidents. It’s true that if they received some help over there it would be good. Our 2nd son had a psychologist (I think just to monitor the kids, not for any therapy) who was extremely creepy for want of a better word. As soon as we met this man and he would not look us in the eye, among other things, we knew we had to get the child out of there….

  4. avatar Greg says:

    There is always Ukraine to go to if you haven’t already been smitten by a child in Russia. I’d be happy to provide the name/contact info of our facilitator who handled our Ukrainian adoption a little over a year ago. We worked directly with him-no agency involved. I have no horror stories to tell you. It was relatively quick and painless but we were going for a known child…as opposed to letting the state department of adoptions provide a “match”. For those of you in process for a Russian child, my heart and prayers go out to you. In His perfect timing….which is never fast enough for us!

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks for that suggestion, Greg, that’s a great idea, too! My father’s mother grew up in Yalta (they were close to the tsar who had a palace there)… back when it was Russia! Even though we have friends with kids from Ukraine, I know nothing about the process. How does it work these days? I’ve heard that they have older children– what does that mean age-wise? Do you have any right of refusal if the child is not okay mentally, etc.? What would one do if they had no pre-identified child? Thanks for your insights. It’s a time to pray and think things through. Russia is becoming absolutely crazy.

      • avatar Greg says:

        From a paperwork perspective, I believe you will have very similar requirements between Russia and Ukraine. You will need a home study and all the background checks completed. You will also need an I-600A from the US. Once all the docs have been submitted to the Ukrainian authorities, you will be given an appointment date to appear in Kyiv. That date may be within 30 days of your dossier approval if you are going for an older child (12-15) or up to possibly 7 months I am told for younger children. We adopted a 14 year old girl, so I can’t speak from experience with the younger kids but this is what my facilitator told me. If you are going for a “known child” then you will receive your referral to go visit that child. Depending on the age, the child will have to agree to the adoption. You will have plenty of opportunities to jump ship if you get cold feet prior to the court hearing. If you don’t know the child you want to adopt, the adoption department will give you up to three referrals to go visit with children. They will do that one at a time giving you one referral and if that one doesn’t work out you must return to Kyiv and get your second referral. If all three referrals are not a match, then they send you home and you have to resubmit as I understand. I’d suggest that you work with a facilitator who is very active and he could probably steer you to a child that would be a good match. It is technically not legal to do this, but it happens all the time. If all goes well, you might be in-country for four weeks total but after court typically one parent will leave. This is a huge generalization and I’d be happy to share my specific experiences with any reader that wants more information. The writer of this blog knows how to contact me. As with all things Eastern European, I would caution you to go in eyes wide open and not take everything you are told as fact. I don’t mean that to be critical…..more of a buyer beware kind of statement!

        • avatar admin says:

          Thank you, Greg, for the great synopsis. His experience is pretty recent, one year ago, and if he and his family had a good experience, that’s a good recommendation. If anyone is interested, just write to the 3-D site, and we’ll put you in touch. Thanks for being so available, Greg. It’s sounding like Ukraine is a good alternative to Russia….

  5. avatar Linda says:

    We were told that sometimes if a social worker that has been involved with your child comes over to Finland, they may call us and arrange a visit to see how the child is doing. This is actually a thing you agree on when adopting from Russia, in Finland.
    Our agency told us that if it would happen, it’s a really good possibility to find out much more of what it’s been like when your child grow up and get some extra photos etc.

    And this year when there was the yearly Russian adoption children meeting there was several people from Russian children’s homes there to see how all the kids are.
    We didn’t go there, but a friend of mine went and she said that it had been really nice to meet the social worker for their son, she had brought a photo of the group the son had been, and the children’s home. and a nice letter for the boy as well as a toy…

    But in many ways our process is so so different then what it is in the US.
    Our process took over 3,5 years, and it was a very short time, when it comes to international adoption in Finland.
    And I think we have more support from our social worker during the proses and after…
    Even now, when our boy had been home over a year, I’m still in contact with our social worker every 2Months or so, and if there’s any problems we get help from there and she always tells us that if we need her to do an extra visit she will do that, we just need to ask… And it doesn’t cost a thing.

    • avatar Linda says:

      I just realized that my message didn’t have anything to do with your post…
      Anyway, hope the adoptions from Russia continue, there’s been rumours over here as well that it would slow down a lot. And last I heard Ireland is blacklisted, has been for years, don’t think it ever started after the first stop.

      • avatar admin says:

        We love to hear you share, Linda! It’s true, Ireland I know was a difficult place for years, I wouldn’t be surprised if it shut down entirely. (Note added later: I just heard of an Irish family adopting from Russia, so it must be open now.) I always wonder if any Russian kids will grow up and try to sue the Russian government for depriving them of a family for years when there were specific families petitioning for specific children… and the government said Nyet.

    • avatar admin says:

      That is tremendous, Linda, to be able to show your child to a SW from Russia who remembers him! I have no problem with Russians coming to our house, but I think it might be difficult to sell the idea of any Russian official entering an American adoptive home anytime they want…. It’s true, the process is so different in each country. Here we complain if it takes over one year, and your normal Finnish timeline is so much more! What a wonderful resource to have a social worker who is helpful. I have a number of adoptive parents contact me who are having severe, lifethreatening problems with their children and the agency, SW, everyone has seemingly disappeared. It’s so nice to hear a good outcome with workers who care.

  6. avatar Sheri says:

    Thanks so much, I was really hit like a brick when a friend told me (after they are fully funded) that they couldn’t travel, that all adoptions were on hold. 🙁 With some research I found your blog and “Dead Russians” which does show a breakdown in communication with Russia, probably because of piles of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape. So heartbreakingly sad. Thank you so much for your information. I hope you will update since you seem to be extremely knowledgeable about this.

  7. avatar John says:

    I found your blog as I was searching for any new news about the possible signing of this adoption treaty. We are adopting a 15 year old that is in an orphanage in St. Petersburg. Her age is important because the day she turns 16 she can no longer be adopted. So, time is of the essence. Then, the first week of March, we get a phone call from our agency telling us that a judge in St. Petersburg suspended all adoptions there. We were stunned. All our paperwork was already there, translated, ready to be handed over to the Education Committee for approval. Our agency contacts/workers in St. Petersburg met first with the Education Committee members and then the judge to plead our case because of our daughter’s age. The judge refused to be swayed but did say that once the treaty is signed our case would be expedited. There is a cut-off date for us. If we do not start the process again soon there will not be enough time for us to complete the adoption. The new 30-day civil court required waiting period enacted on January 1, 2012 (as opposed to the old 10 day waiting period) only makes matters worse. We are potentially looking at 3 trips instead of 2. We are praying that the Duma signs this treaty soon or it means no chance of getting our daughter home and she will “graduate” the orphanage. Has anyone heard any news recently? Are they close to signing or are we talking about months? Please pray for our daughter and us as we try to keep the faith the God will see this through completion.

    • avatar admin says:

      John, we’ll be praying with you. Most of us thought the Duma action was imminent last July when both sides signed. This is a game that they play, plain and simple. The kids are the least of their concerns, unfortunately. I’m sure your agency has already done this, but check on the specific dates–if it’s when your documents are submitted that the clock is stopped as far as her age, or by the date that the adoption is completed. Unfortunately, the agency should have seen the handwriting on the wall– shut-downs were happening in the big cities prior to that time. But some regions are still unaffected. Also, you might personally send an e-mail to the US Embassy in Moscow and ask what they know about the treaty or St. Petersburg. It certainly doesn’t look good, but now that the elections are over, things may get back to normal, recognizing that “normal” for Russia is not our idea of normal…. Let us know how it’s going!

  8. avatar Sheri says:

    You seem so knowledgeable, do you know if a child who ‘ages out’ of the system in Russia can emigrate to the US?

    • avatar admin says:

      No, I’m sorry, Sheri, in general they cannot. Many families have tried to make this happen, even with siblings of their adopted children who may be over the age of 18. (Age-out is 16, except for siblings of already-adopted children, then it’s 18.) The aged-out child would have to fulfill normal immigration law to enter the US, details at USCIS, which is almost impossible in the case of orphaned young adults.

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