Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Taking a closer look at Russia's adoption ban

Salt Lake City readers may have glanced at the news stories about Russia discontinuing the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens, but since it's the holidays and life is busy, they may not have made it past the headlines.

So, we thought it might be helpful if we took a look at this issue. Since adoption cases are a significant portion of our practice, it is a development that interests us.

Last Friday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed the Dima Yakovlev Law, which prevents U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children. The Russian Federation Council passed it the following Wednesday. The law is named for a Russian toddler who died in the U.S. after his adoptive parents left him in a stifling car for hours. His father was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter. Russia has positioned the law as an effort to protect Russian children.

But are the best interests of Russian children really behind all this? Many political analysts say no. Rather, the adoption ban seems to have been enacted in the wake of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which condemns Russian officials whom the U.S. believes are guilty of corruption and human rights violations. (It's named after a Russian hedge fund manager who exposed Russian corruption and later died in prison under suspicion circumstances.) Russia has voiced strong opposition to this law, which it sees as meddlesome and overbearing.

In other words, it seems that escalating international tensions are to blame for this retaliatory adoption ban. That's terribly sad news for the thousands of U.S. families and couples who had adoptions of Russian children pending and now may not be able to see them through.

Given the current international climate, we do not know how things will develop here, but it is something we will be paying attention to going forward.

Source: Time, "Russia's Adoption Politics: Defeated Families Caught in a Diplomatic Tailspin," Alexandra Sifferlin, Dec. 28, 2012

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