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15 Apr, 2010 10:23

US suspended from adopting Russian children

Moscow has suspended the adoption of Russian children by American families until the two countries sign an agreement on how the well-being of the children is safeguarded.

The decision, announced by spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Andrey Nesterenko, was taken after an adopted Russian boy was rejected and sent back all alone to Russia by his adopted American mother.

An American delegation headed by Michael Kirby, a senior diplomat who deals with adoption issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, will soon arrive to Moscow to discuss the issue. One principal question Russia wants from table is a bilateral agreement on international adoption, the Russian diplomat said.

“Russia will insist on a bilateral agreement with the United States on international adoptions. Russia believes the deal should include a way to monitor how Russian children adopted by Americans are being looked after. Only such an agreement could guarantee that tragedies like we have seen in the US will not happen again. The further adoption of Russian children by American citizens is currently frozen and will only be allowed when such an agreement is in place,” Nesterenko said.

The agreement requested by the Russian side is now being prepared, confirmed US Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle, commenting on the news for Itar-Tass news agency. He added such a document is long overdue.

Earlier on Monday Dmitry Medvedev sponsored such an agreement when commenting on the scandalous case. The Russian president branded the American family’s rejection of the boy they adopted as both amoral and illegal and also mentioned several other cases when Russian children adopted by American citizens were mistreated and even died in their new parents’ care.

“I believe that considering the negative experience we have in the area, we and our American partners should think of adopting an intergovernmental agreement, which would firmly fix responsibility of the adoptive parents accepting children from Russia and provide possibility of monitoring of such families. The trend is worrisome, and it’s sad,” Medvedev said.

Seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev was sent by his adoptive mother Torry Ann Hansen to Moscow alone on a plane. She claimed that the boy had psychological problems and that after living with the boy for several months she had to send him back to the orphanage. It is still not clear why the family didn’t take the legal path to cancel the adoption, since they are now refusing to talk to the American investigation and cannot be arrested without charges.

Meanwhile, Artyom is celebrating his birthday today on April 16. He turned eight and everybody is bringing him gifts to the hospital, where there are lots of toys and a birthday cake.

Allegedly there are already several families who want to adopt the boy, but legally the US woman who sent him back is still his guardian.

“We have obtained a copy of Artyom's US passport. His signature is not in it. It was issued on April 9, but Artyom was sent to Russia on April 7! I do not know what this means. Now he is considered to be a child without the custody of parents – that is why state custody officials are deciding his fate,” Russian Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov said.

“The boy's got a running temperature, probably he's caught a cold or maybe it’s because of anxiety and nervousness. But when we congratulated him on his birthday, he immediately started playing with his new toys. The US consul was there, she talked to him, and she was very pleased too. We agreed that as soon as the boy gets better, he will go to a foster home. By the way, his Russian has got better while he has been staying in hospital, so he speaks the language very well now. He is delighted and happy,” Astakhov also said.

It has been decided that a patronage family will be found for Artyom.

The incident caused uproar in Russia, where mistreatment of Russian children in foreign families is taken to heart by many. Several top officials including the chair of the upper chamber of Parliament called for a moratorium on the adoption of Russian children by Americans after the incident.

For Americans, Russia is the third most popular country to adopt a child from. Over the last five years US families have adopted more than 14,000 Russian kids.

The Russian prosecution says that three Russian children have been killed while in the care of their adopted families in America since 2006, which is when Moscow put into force stricter adoption rules for foreigners.

Attorney Margarita Zakiyan believes that the explanation for the number of recent violent cases with adoptive parents from America could be a matter of proportion.

“I think such things happen because a lot of American citizens adopt in Russia,” Zakiyan told RT. “There is a tremendous amount of Americans who adopt in Russia, so the more cases we see, sometimes violent cases come up. However, let’s not forget that a lot of children have been adopted internationally and particularly in the US and have been living happily. But since there are many cases, one or two or three or five of them are unfortunately not very happy ones.”

Meanwhile, Kemlin Furley, UNICEF Representative in Russia, says that all adoptive parents can face many difficulties and should be entitled to “good support mechanisms.”

Adopting a child is not easy,” Furley said. “They will come with behavioral problems; they will come with issuesAnd I think that Russia recognizes [this] and is trying to develop those types of systems at home.”

Read also: What makes US foster parents hate Russian children?