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22 Jun, 2010 06:06

Safe and transparent system essential for US adoption in Russia

Moscow and Washington are now trying to find ways to come up with a deal to end the adoption ban. Yet even parents who have successfully adopted Russian kids have had to overcome tough barriers.

An agreement allowing the adoption of Russian children by Americans remains frozen after a series of high profile mistreatment incidents. In some cases they led to the deaths of adopted children.

Peter and Sophie were adopted when they were just toddlers and left Russia to start their new life in America.

Sadly, not all adoptions are as successful as Peter and Sophie’s and when little Artyom arrived back in Moscow from America after his adoptive mother sent him back on the transatlantic flight alone, all American-Russian adoptions were frozen.

They will not be resumed until a bilateral agreement can be drawn up by both sides – and talks are currently underway to ensure this happens as soon as possible.

“The situation has gone from bad to worse over the last 16 years. It has been getting worse because there was no adequate legal foundation for conducting this kind of activity,” says Russian Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov. “An inter-governmental agreement or a joint convention would serve as a basis for mutual interaction. This is what makes the conclusion of an adoption treaty between Russia and the United States so urgent.”

One major issue is the lack of full disclosure of the children's medical records. With the large number of children in orphanages suffering from psychological or physical problems, many adoptive parents are unaware of these issues until after the adoption has been finalized.

Peter and Sophie’s adoptive parents discovered that Peter suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, mild autism and seizures, amongst other problems.

“We didn’t know [Peter’s] problems at the time – we were under the impression he was healthy,” says Mary Lo Brutto, Peter and Sophie’s adoptive mother.

“It was about six months after he was home we really began to see he was not attached to us, whereas Sophie would come and sit with us. He didn’t want to sit with us, he didn’t want to be with us, he was very distant and cut off from us,” her husband Patrick Lo Brutto adds.

However, simply giving up was never an option for them.

“In fact, the doctor asked us that when we got to his office – do you want to send him back, are you thinking about disruption? We said ‘No, we can’t, he’s our son’,” Mary Lo Brutto recalls.

“It’s very difficult. Peter’s got a lot of problems. He needs a lot of help, he requires a lot of patience, he requires a lot of looking after – it’s difficult,” Patrick Lo Brutto says.

Despite the issues they have come up against, adoption has always been a positive step for them.

“I think the ban is unfortunate,” Patrick Lo Brutto says. “There are a lot of children, 600,000 children in Russian orphanages. I think the number of bad adoptions in the US is very very few. I think the US and Russia need to look very carefully at establishing rules that make sense when people adopt children so they know and understand what they’re going to be getting into and how difficult its going to be.”

“On both sides,” his wife adds. “Somebody knew Peter’s status; I have a feeling, in birth records, that kind of thing. So information is good on everybody’s part. I think Russia needs to be more open with the circumstances that led to the parental rights being given up and I think on the American side parents should go through more rigorous training.”

Everyone now has their hopes set on the agreement being signed to enable US citizens to continue providing adoptive homes for Russian children.