How an International Adoption Ban Might Actually Be Repealed

Thanks to Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, the Russian adoption ban is being heavily discussed in the news today. This may have many in the adoption circles wondering: Can the Russian adoption ban ever be reversed?

Unfortunately, due to the complicated political entanglements of the U.S. and Russian governments, a reversal of the Russian adoption ban seems highly unlikely. Although Trump, Jr., claimed that adoption was the subject of his meeting with a Russian lawyer, he recently released emails that proved it was not. Still, the idea of a discussion of the adoption ban reversal may have renewed some other discussions among adoption professionals in the U.S.

If the Trump administration (or any other U.S president, for that matter) had actually wished to reverse an adoption ban from another country, how would it work?

Reversing an international adoption ban will be highly specific for each country, depending on the reasons behind the ban and the current political climate between the U.S. and that country. We’ll use Russia as an example, although this process could likely be tailored to different international adoptions, as well.

Why Reversing the Russian Adoption Ban is so Complicated

Adoption bans are put in place for many reasons. For example, Haiti stopped its international adoptions shortly after its devastating earthquake in 2010. Aid groups encouraged this out of the fear that misplaced children would be adopted in other countries before being given the proper time to find and be reunited with their Haitian families; the relaxing of international visa requirements led to an adoption boom that dramatically affected Haiti’s orphan population. In response to pressure from other countries, the Haitian government began to tighten adoption rules. The U.S. Department of State Office of Children’s Issues also warned against Americans adopting Haitian children because of the lack of proper regulation and resources right after the earthquake. When the Haitian government finally instated Hague Convention requirements for its international adoption program in 2014, the U.S. began processing adoptions from this country again.

In a situation like Haiti’s, international adoptions can usually be reinstated after a recovery time period to make sure people adopting children can be effectively screened and approved prior to an adoption. However, Russia is a bit more complicated, as the adoption ban is largely a political move.

Russia initially enacted its adoption ban in 2012 in response to a U.S. law that targeted Russian human-rights violators. This political back-and-forth only escalated the tense relationships between these countries. Prior to this political step, there were already complications in the Russian adoption process, including widespread corruption and bribery of officials to find an adoption situation.

Therefore, when it comes to reversing the adoption ban in Russia, specifically, the problems are two-fold: resolving the political turmoil between the two countries and then reforming the unsafe practices in the Russian adoption process.

How a Government Could Reverse an Adoption Ban

Putting political complications aside, many adoption bans could be reversed by addressing the very reasons they were created in the first place — concerns over the adoption process. Usually, this involves the safety of the children and the effectiveness of the country’s adoption requirements in ensuring it. However, when the reversal of an adoption ban is left entirely up to government officials, a huge piece of the puzzle is missing — the insight of adoption professionals who know the most about this process.

If two governments were to seek the reversal of an adoption ban, it would be important that the conversation also involve adoption professionals from each country. This could include top international adoption agencies (like Holt International or Bethany Christian Services) that would have a vested interest in reopening adoptions in that country, as well as adoption agencies that intentionally chose not to work with that country previously. In the case of Russian adoption, large, national domestic adoption agencies like American Adoptions could communicate the concerns they had — and still have — about the international Russian adoption process. The advice of these professionals would bring balance to the discussion of whether to reverse an adoption ban and, if so, help create an adoption process that’s safer for all involved.

In addition, legal adoption experts from each country should be present (like representatives from the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproductive Attorneys) to recommend proper legal requirements for adopting across country borders. Along with officials from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, all of these professionals would have to have serious discussions about the details of the intercountry adoption process to find a solution that makes both parties happy. Only then could an adoption ban reversal become possible.

The History of Reversing International Adoption Bans

Of course, the complicated process would require multiple discussions before any tangible changes could be made to any international adoption ban. For countries that have gone through this process, there has not been a lot of success.

Back in 2008, Guatemala passed a law to shut down all intercountry adoptions at the request of the United States. The “Ortega law,” as it was called, was designed to give Guatemalan adoption professionals time to refine their process for the safety of the children involved after allegations of Guatemalan families selling their children, improper requirements and child kidnapping. Today, the USCIS has determined that Guatemala still has not met the Hague Convention requirements to be freed for Americans to adopt from.

Other nations, like Cambodia and Vietnam, are still undergoing revision to their current adoption process. U.S. officials are working with these countries to help them meet Hague Convention requirements and eventually open up their borders for international adoption once again. Currently, a special needs adoption program is available in Vietnam for American citizens.

Not every country has a history of establishing adoption bans — and in many cases, these countries are the best choice for Americans seeking to adopt internationally today. China is a great example. Since 1999, more than 79,000 Chinese children have been adopted by Americans in a program that is well-regulated and still going strong.

If countries with adoption bans hope to reverse those and allow for American adoptions again, they should be encouraged to model new adoption procedures after China’s and South Korea’s. These countries’ safe, regulated adoption processes may be the future of international adoption, should it ever come back from the “adoption cliff” it experienced after the turn of the millennium.

For those looking to complete an international adoption, it’s important to do your diligent research before moving forward with this process. For those who are specifically interested in a Russian adoption, expect a long wait as both Russia and the U.S. work out these political differences — a result that seems highly unlikely at this point. Until political relationships improve and governments start involving domestic and international adoption professionals in the conversation, international adoption bans will likely stay in place.

There are many aspects to consider in regards to international adoption, and you may discover that foster care or domestic infant adoption is best for you instead. You should always speak to an experienced adoption professional about your options before beginning the adoption process.

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