U.S., Russia close to pact to restart adoptions

Safeguards required after 2010 incident

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Following the international uproar last year over an unwanted 7-year-old Russian boy being sent home — unaccompanied — by his would-be adoptive American mother, U.S. and Russian officials are poised this week to sign a pact allowing intercountry adoption to resume fully, but with significant new restrictions in place.

Adoptions from Russia slowed and faced the threat of suspension after news broke in April 2010 that the Tennessee mother had sent the boy alone on a plane back to Russia with a note giving him back to authorities.

Torry Hansen’s actions, described as “monstrous” by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, created a furor and led to suspended licenses, delayed adoptions and lengthy negotiations over new adoption rules.

This week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are expected to sign the bilateral adoption agreement. Adoption groups and other stakeholders said they will be given details on the new pact in a conference call on Thursday.

“After the document is signed, we’ll breathe a sigh of relief,” said Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA).

For the past 20 years, Russia has been one of the largest “sending” countries in U.S. intercountry adoption. But in 2010, 1,079 Russian children were adopted, down a third from 2009, when 1,586 children were adopted.

Few details are known about the pact, which was “nearing finalization” on Monday, a State Department official said.

Mr. Lavrov last week told a Russian TV news channel that the agreement would be “bilateral and equal” to ensure that Russian children adopted by Americans will be raised properly and safely.

Russian children will retain their Russian citizenship, and U.S. adoptive parents will be required to undergo psychological testing, Mr. Lavrov said, according to the Voice of Russia website. Other Russian media have said the new rules will apply retroactively to U.S. adoptions of Russian children in the past 16 years.

An expected change is that Russian adoptions will be conducted only through agencies accredited by The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, not “independent” professionals, said Mr. Johnson, whose NCFA represents adoption agencies.

Most of the problems with abuse or disruption occurred with those “independent adoptions,” he said.

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, also welcomed the new pact. “If we can move in a thoughtful, sane way toward a regimen in which we make sure [children] are safe, we make sure they are well tended to and that it is not overly intrusive for their families, then we have done a very good thing for kids.”

Pavel Astakhov, head of the Russian children’s rights commission, has been involved in writing the new pact — and taking care of the Tennessee boy who was abruptly returned to sender.

In April 2010, Ms. Hansen sent her adopted son, then known as Artem, back to Russia with a backpack full of toys and a note saying, “This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues. … I was lied to and misled by the Russian orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability.”

The Hansen family paid a driver to pick the boy up in Moscow and deliver him to social service authorities. But their actions were deemed “the final straw” by Russians, who already were upset over news that some Russian adoptees were suffering abuse, rape or death after going to America.

Russian officials said they found no serious health issues with the boy, whose name is now Artyom Savelyev.

Earlier this year, Novosti news covered Mr. Astakhov’s visit to bring gifts and see Artyom, who was living in a foster care home in Moscow.

Artyom attends school and “has fully recovered from his trauma,” Mr. Astakhov told reporters, adding that he and the center directors are looking for “new, decent parents” for the boy.

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