Since 2012, Americans have been unable to adopt orphans and children from Russia — and recent developments in the relationship between the U.S. and Russia seem to make a reversal of this adoption ban even more complicated.
Reversing the Russian adoption ban has been a goal for both the Obama and Trump administrations, but new information regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s meetings with Russian government officials may have brought those discussions to a standstill. Whereas Trump Jr. originally said a meeting between him and a Russian lawyer regarded the sanctions and the Russia adoption ban, he recently revealed that the subject of the meeting was instead obtaining damaging information on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during his father’s campaign.
Reversing the Russia adoption ban seemed possible as recently as this January. But, for many U.S. government officials and adoption professionals, these developments seem to make any further discussion of these sanctions far more difficult.
The Russian adoption ban’s original reason for being enacted was in response to a U.S. law that targeted alleged Russian human-rights violators from traveling to the U.S. or owning real estate or other assets in the U.S. The Russian adoption ban was a diplomatic retaliation that strained the previously strong relationship between the two countries.
Before the ban was enacted in 2012, Americans completed more than 46,000 Russian adoptions— and these were only the adoptions counted by the U.S. Department of State since 1999. Russia was consistently one of the most popular countries for Americans to adopt from, but where Americans adopted 748 children from Russia in 2012, only two Russian children were adopted by Americans in 2014.
The Russian adoption ban did more than just restrict prospective adoptive parents from adopting from Russia; it also disrupted many adoptions already in process. More than 200 families were in the immediate process of adopting when the ban took effect, with more than 1,000 prospective adoptions in various stages of the process. Many of those families lost the money and time they had invested into the process, as their prospective adoptive children were instead placed into Russian homes.
Despite the complications surrounding the U.S.-Russian adoption relationship, a U.S. diplomat is still scheduled to meet with the deputy Russian foreign minister this month. The diplomats will likely include the matter in general talks about resolving the growing conflicts between the two countries, although it’s difficult to say if any progress on the Russian adoption ban issue will be made.
What This Means for Other International Adoptions
The situation with the Russian adoption ban is a good example of the inherent risks involved in any international adoption. Intercountry adoption policy is usually not among the highest priorities of any nation, but it’s a process that can frequently get caught up in negative political relationships and, therefore, be impacted without warning.
This is why many adoption agencies caution prospective adoptive parents from pursuing an international adoption without proper research. While there are risks inherent with any adoption process, international adoption often adds political instability to the existing international adoption risks.
But, what exactly are these other risks to be aware of? Many times, children adopted internationally have an uncertain health history and are unable to have access to their medical records. Because other countries’ adoption processes are less regulated than the U.S. process, children placed for adoption may also be victims of child trafficking or kidnapping (like in Guatemala), used primarily to make a profit off internationally adopting families. Therefore, there is a level of uncertainty with internationally adopted children’s parents and whether their parental rights have legally been terminated.
American Adoptions was one of the agencies that cautioned its prospective adoptive families against adopting from Russia even before the adoption ban was enacted — and continues to encourage those families to choose the safer path of a domestic adoption instead.
“Before the ban was enacted, we knew that the political climate in Russia and its relationship with the U.S. could impact those adoptions in progress and future adoptions — and it did,” American Adoptions executive director Shawn Kane said. “Families looking to adopt internationally should educate themselves and assess the country they’re thinking of adopting from. If you want to go to a country and adopt an orphan where there are issues like civil war or political instability, that’s honorable, but there’s a good chance those issues will also lead to challenges in the adoption process.”
Instead, if a parent is set on international adoption, American Adoptions and other adoption agencies frequently suggest China as a nation from which to adopt children. Unlike children in other countries who are made available for adoption because of special needs or negative personal history, children in China are frequently placed for adoption because of the nation’s population restriction and parents’ gender preference for boys — meaning more healthy adoption situations are available.
But, like any international adoption, adopting from China always runs the risk of disruption in case its relationship with the U.S. takes a negative turn.
“The adoption proces is about risk-management,” Kane said. “There are risks with any adoption process, but by adopting domestically, you are protecting yourself from the possibility of another ban like Russia’s being enacted.”
If you’re considering an international adoption as an American citizen, it’s important to fully educate yourself about the process before moving forward. You can learn more about the international adoption process here.