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Adopted Russian children need greater protection

This week, Russia is expected to sign an “historic” treaty on adoption with the United Sates, after a number of cases where Russian children have been abused in the US.

The two countries have been in negotiations on the issue for 15 months. Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s ombudsman for Child Rights, said in June that an agreement between the two countries should be signed by Russia’s Foreign Minister on his trip to the United States this week. RIA Novosti, the Russian News & Information Agency reported Mr Astakhov as saying that the agreement would help to “ensure the safety of Russian children adopted by US families”.

Russian children account for around 1 in 10 foreign adoptions in the United States. According to official Russian data, around 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by US families in the 15 years since adoptions began. However, over the last few years, Russian officials have become increasingly concerned about these adoptions following a number of high-profile cases of abuse or mistreatment of children. In January, Mr Astakhov stated that 17 Russian children had died in the United States as a result of child abuse over the 15-year period of the adoptions.

Last year, Russia suspended all US adoptions after a woman from Tennessee sent back her 7 year-old adoptive son to Russia on his own. The boy was placed on a plane to Moscow with a note written by his adoptive mother saying the child was “psychotic”. In another recent incident, a US man has been charged with raping his adopted daughter after describing the relations he had with the Russian teenager as “consensual”. The abuse only came to light when the girl spoke to the Russian embassy to correct an error in the documents concerning her case.

Under the new agreement, it is expected that adoptive parents will be properly assessed and regular reports will be drawn up on the “psychological and physical development” of the Russian children. This will entail home visits to families by US social workers to check on the children’s welfare. The US State will then be responsible for tracking the child’s progress until they are 18 years of age and reporting any signs of abuse or neglect. The agreement will also stipulate that adoptions can only take place through officially accredited agencies and independent operators will be banned from the process. With these changes, Mr Astakhov said he expects to have “clear information ... [which] will make it easier for us to monitor the welfare of our children”. Russia’s ombudsman for Child Rights also spoke of a final element to the agreement – that all Russian children will retain their citizenship.

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