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US adoption groups voice concern over Russia ban

22 december 2012, 10:52
US adoption agencies expressed deep concern Thursday after President Vladimir Putin backed legislation making it illegal for Russian children to be adopted by Americans, AFP reports.

"It's unfortunate that the Russian government is contemplating punishing children who would benefit from having safe and loving homes here in the United States" because of a bilateral spat over human rights, said Richard Klarberg, president of the Council on Accreditation, which represents about 200 US adoption agencies.

Families in the process of adopting "are very concerned they won't be able to bring their children home," added Anya Rutherford, director of the Russia program at Christian World Adoption.

"They have been calling me, emailing me. They are very frightened, very scared," said Rutherford, whose organization is currently helping 35 families waiting for a child in Russia to adopt.

Many couples have gone to Russia to meet the children they will be adopting once legal proceedings are completed. "They already know the children," Rutherford said. "They already fell in love with these children."

The Duma, or lower house of the Russian parliament, gave second-reading approval Wednesday to legislation forbidding the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Putin signaled his support for it on Thursday.

Russia sees the ban as retaliation for a US human rights law that allows the seizure of assets from Russian officials implicated in the 2009 death of a lawyer who blew the whistle on a $235 million police embezzlement scheme.

Those same officials would also be barred from entering the United States.

"It's a very strong reaction -- and one that is misdirected," Klarberg told AFP.

Some 45,112 Russian children have been adopted by American families since 1999, including 962 last year -- many of them with special needs. China remains the biggest source of children adopted from abroad.

"Each country advocates for the protection of human rights," said Elina Filippova of Adoption ARK, based in Illinois.

"The unfortunate outcome of this conflict is the violation of the rights of the most vulnerable, the kids with special needs... We hope the Duma will consider its decision."

One couple in West Virginia, Kimberly and Christopher, who asked that their surnames not be used, said through their adoption agency that they are still eager to complete the adoption of a baby Russian boy they first laid eyes on a year ago.

"We do not understand what the children have to do with any of this... They are being used as pawns in a political game, and that is very sad," they said in an email.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland did not speak at length on the matter, although she said she was aware of talk in the Russian media of possible amendments to the law.

She added that the United States remains committed to a bilateral treaty on adoptions and would keep working directly with Russian authorities who handle adoption cases.

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