US-Russia Agreement on Adoptions Takes Effect in November

An agreement aimed at improving the adoption process between the United States and Russia goes into effect in November. It comes two years after a Tennessee woman sent her adopted 7-year-old son alone on a plane back to Russia.

The U.S. State Department says the agreement will ensure “a safe, ethical, and transparent adoption process for prospective adoptive parents, birth families, and children involved in intercountry adoptions.”

Natasha Shaginian-Needham, executive director of Happy Families International Center in Cold Spring, NY, which handles adoptions from Russia, thinks this can help all involved. “It will definitely benefit the children and…the families as well, because it will be [a] deeper screening process,” she said.

Under the agreement, the Russian government will no longer allow prospective parents to start new independent adoptions unless a child is adopted by a relative. All other adoptions will need to be handled by accredited adoption service providers authorized to operate in Russia.

And beginning next spring, prospective adoptive parents looking to adopt from Russia will also have to be pre-approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency is tasked with determining the eligibility of the child to immigrate to the U.S. and ensuring the prospective parents are able to handle any special needs of the child.

“One of the concerns was that American families did not have full and complete information about the children that they were committing to,” said Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption. “Now they will have…a little more information on which they can make an informed decision, whether or not to proceed legally with the adoption.”

According to the State Department, there was a total of 962 adoptions from Russia in 2011.