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Government, Politics & Issues

Senate backs Blunt resolution urging Russia to reverse ban on U.S. adoptions

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 2, 2013 - WASHINGTON – Several years ago, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and his wife Abby endured Russia’s demanding administrative and court processes to adopt their son Charlie, now a rambunctious 8-year-old.

Shortly afterward, Russia began to tighten its adoption restrictions. And this week – despite a 2011 bilateral agreement that aimed to ease the adoption process – a new Russian law went into effect that bans all U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

Outraged by the Russian move, Blunt, R-Mo., joined with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to sponsor a Senate resolution – approved this week – urging the Russian government to reconsider the new law and at least allow the adoption of Russian orphans already matched with American families.

The non-binding resolution asserts that the Russian government should “reconsider the law on humanitarian grounds, in consideration of the well-being of parentless Russian children awaiting a loving and permanent family.” It also calls on Moscow to “prioritize the processing of inter-country adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens that were initiated” before the new law.

“One of the great benefits of Russian adoptions – and I’ve talked with a number of parents in the last week who have adopted Russian kids – is that you look at an entire country differently and you look at an entire people differently,” Blunt said Wednesday.

Last month, Blunt – who accused the Russian government of using orphans as “political pawns” in a bilateral dispute on other issues – joined Landrieu and 14 other senators in sending a letter asking Russian President Vladimir Putin not to sign the adoption law.

Russia’s parliament had passed that bill, signed by Putin last week, in retaliation for a provision of a new U.S. law that aims to hold some Russian officials responsible for the 2009 imprisonment and murder of Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky. That provision was included in a bill granting Russia permanent normal trade relations status.

Now that Putin has signed the adoption ban into law, Blunt thinks more pressure should be put on Russia to reverse it or, at the very least, allow currently scheduled adoptions to go forward. He said Moscow’s adoption ban is especially difficult for at least 46 American families – including a family in the St. Louis area – that have already traveled to Russia and been matched with orphans to adopt.

“For every month a child is left in a Russian orphanage, the more challenges they have when they get to the United States,” Blunt told reporters. “I’ve talked to families in St. Louis and Hannibal who are in that process now of adopting a specific child; I’ve talked to families all over the state who have Russian adopted children.”

Landrieu, who has two adopted children, is active on adoption as the chair of the advisory board (of which Blunt is a member) of the nonprofit Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. That group aims to raise public awareness and to lower barriers to adoption.

“Whatever issues our two governments may be facing, there is no reason to put vulnerable children in the middle of political posturing,” Landrieu said in a statement. “Children should be raised by parents, not in orphanages, institutions or alone on the street.”

Blunt said that Russia has more than 700,000 orphans, some of whom are ill or have other special needs. In 2011, about 1,000 Russian children were adopted by American parents, a decrease from the previous average of about 3,000 adoptions annually. In all, more than 60,000 Russian-born children have found adoptive homes in this country.

“We have a family in St. Louis that has adopted, has gone to court, has been to Russia multiple times,” Blunt said. A Russian court had ruled recently that, after 30 days, the adoptive parents could take the child back to Missouri.

“And now the Russian government says: ‘You can never take this child home,’” said Blunt. He called that action “totally unacceptable.”

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