Russia's parliament on Tuesday ratified an agreement with the United States regulating the adoption of Russian children by Americans. The 244-96 vote in the State Duma came a year after the countries worked out the pact.
Q How did the agreement come about?
A Russian officials had long complained about the abuse and even killings of children by their adoptive parents -- saying that at least 19 Russian adoptive children had died at the hands of their American parents. The issue came to a head in April 2010, when an American adoptive mother sent her 7-year-old boy back to Russia on a one-way ticket, saying he had behavioral problems. After that case, some Russian officials called for adoptions by Americans to be halted altogether. That never happened, but some adoption agencies working in Russia said their applications were frozen for several months. Russian and U.S. officials signed an agreement aimed at ending the dispute in 2011, but the Russian parliament waited nearly a year to ratify it because of technicalities.
Q What does it mean for Americans who want to adopt Russian children?
A Ratification should end the strife and allow adoptions to resume efficiently. All adoptions would have to be processed through adoption agencies registered in Russia. The agreement requires the agencies to monitor the child's upbringing, schedule visits by a social worker and send reports to Russian authorities. The deal makes sure that prospective American parents have better information about the social and medical histories of their Russian children.
Q How will it affect Russia?
A By providing monitoring, the agreement is likely to reassure a public angered by the abuse and deaths. It also could undercut complaints by nationalists that Russian children are being "sold." The poorly controlled flow of Russian adoptions highlighted sensitivity over the loss of children as Russia faces a demographic crisis from low birth rates. Full resumption of adoptions will mean increased opportunity for Russian orphans to leave underfunded and crowded orphanages. There are more than 740,000 children without parental custody in Russia, according to UNICEF.
Q Why is the deal important for Americans?
A Russia has been a major source of children for adoptive U.S. parents for 20 years. In the 2011 fiscal year, Russia was the third-largest source of foreign adoption by Americans with 970 adoptions, trailing China and Ethiopia. Adoptions from Russia peaked in 2004 at 5,862, according to the State Department. Their number was 1,586 in 2009 -- a year before Russia demanded an agreement regulating adoptions. Overall, more than 60,000 Russian orphans have been adopted in the United States, according to the National Council for Adoption, a U.S. nonprofit.