Russian Adoption Law

On March 28, 2000, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, signed a series of decrees aimed at tightening control on adoptions. The decrees outlawed the use of “middlemen” but did not define who is considered to be a middleman. This rule was actually discussed some years before, but there was no real consensus on what it really meant and so business went on as before using facilitators or “middlemen.” Russian government officials have often alleged that intermediaries facilitate adoptions for foreigners by paying bribes to orphanages and bureaucrats.


Perceived Conflict Of Interest

There has also been a perceived conflict of interest issue with persons who are in charge of the children actually being facilitators. Therefore, adoption agencies can now not employ people who also work for Russian State educational, medical, social service establishments or similar organizations that work with the children. Additionally, employees of Russian State adoption services, their spouses and close relatives are also prohibited from working for foreigners. The decree also established an “accreditation” process whereby foreign adoption agencies had to be “accredited” by the Russian government in order to work in Russia. The thrust of the new laws was asserting control over the process by the Russian federal government.

Adoption Agency

A special government commission oversees foreign adoptions and the accreditation procedure. Accredited adoption agencies are responsible for reporting back to the Education Ministry about the welfare of the children they have helped place in homes abroad. Since all adoptions must have post-placement reports anyway, this was not any real change.

There are for a few years. The list of accredited agencies can be found at the Russian Ministry of Education site at The Russian Embassy site also has a list.

New Rules

The new rules also seemed to restrict sending any medical, video or other background information on any particular child to a prospective parent in the US. Different regions have interpreted this rule in different ways. Some regions have allowed this sort of information to be sent to prospective parents as in the past. Others have prohibited the practice. At first, agencies that became accredited were able to continue receiving pre-identification material, however, the trend now is toward not allowing any pre-identification information regardless of whether you use an accredited or unaccredited agency or go independent. It really varies by region.

The rules also required that you register your child with the Russian Embassy upon returning to the States. The result of the limitation on pre-identification material is that families have to make two trips to Russia. The first trip is to choose a child and the second to attend court. You do not need to have your I-171H from the BCIS before making the first trip, but you better have it for the second. Some agencies require you to have it for the first trip, but most regions do not. You do not have to make two trips of course, just that the wait for a court date can be as in Russia (and with their various degrees of independence from Moscow), there has been a wide variation in practices. In the majority of regions parents go over twice.

Adoption Process Illustration

To illustrate how the adoption process varies between regions, some regions have not changed anything and everything is proceeding as before including referrals, videos and medical information. In these regions, one trip is all that is needed. Even in those regions where there is a two-trip process, there is variation. One region may send you several children’s photographs and brief medical histories while you are in the States. You then travel to the children’s home to meet them and choose. In others, you have no information until you arrive at the regional Department of Education.

There are also some new documents to add to your dossier. The first is the Commitment to Register the Child with the Russian Consulate or Embassy upon your return and the second is an agreement to allow your agency to conduct post-placement follow-up. Your agency will also have to make a commitment. These documents seem to be required by all of the regions. The agency commitment to file post-placement reports can be just a letter from them containing your name and address, and stating that the agency agrees to monitor the upbringing and living conditions of your adopted child and will provide post-placement reports to the appropriate Russian Departments, within the required time frames, and for as long as is required by Russian Law.

Some regions have asked for other documents. You may be asked to file a document officially asking for the exact date your child came off the registry. Some regions also have asked for a medical report on any child that you have in your home, vaccination record of your dog, or a document showing you live in a house or an apartment. These documents have to be notarized and apostilled.

The requirement of registering the child may give you pause. However, other countries such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan have this requirement as well. All it means is that when you return to the States you send the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., a registration form with your address on it and the name of your child and their Russian passport.

It doesn’t change your child’s status as your child or even as an American citizen once they obtain citizenship. If you think about it, the Russians already have this information from all of the dossier papers you had to file so this is just duplicative information.