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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Regulate, Don't Limit Adoptions

The State Duma last week postponed consideration of legislation to tighten control over foreign adoption -- one version from the Duma's committee on women, children and the family, and another from the Education Ministry. Discussion was put off until sometime next year. When and if they do take up the issue, the deputies should proceed with caution.

Voices, both Russian and foreign, have been raised against the Duma committee's version. The common objection is that it would make foreign adoptions not just more difficult, but impossible, condemning orphaned children to more years in state facilities when they might have had a chance to find a loving and comfortable home abroad.

The Duma bill, even in the less restrictive form that reached the floor last Friday, goes far beyond that. It would halt adoptions after Jan. 1, 1999, if Russia does not have a bilateral treaty on adoption with the country of the adoptive parents. It also would require that Russian children keep Russian citizenship and impose on Russian consulates abroad the duty of tracking the well-being of the adopted children -- a less than practical measure, with more than 3,000 foreign adoptions last year alone.

Deputies' concerns were raised by media reports about the beating to death of a Russian child by an American adoptive parent. Disturbing as that incident is, it's not by itself a sufficient reason to halt foreign adoptions.

Stranger objections have been heard, too. Some trot out the hazy notion that Russia's "gene pool" is being depleted, and that foreign adoption is some kind of threat to national security or prestige. Now, it's certainly legitimate for Russians to worry about the current shortage of native adoptive parents in some regions, and to think of ways to encourage domestic adoption. It's also legitimate to take note of the bribery that seems to accompany the foreign adoption process.

Nonetheless, the paramount issue should not be Russia's prestige or national genetics, but the best interests of the children.

With that in mind, Russia could go ahead and impose more regulation on adoption, such as accrediting foreign adoption agencies in Russia. (Currently, they operate through freelance Russian proxies.) No country should be expected to put up with bribery as a way of doing business -- although the Duma's sudden interest in corruption seems more than a little selective.

With all the other matters needing attention -- unratified arms control treaties, the 1998 budget and tax reform come to mind -- it's not clear that foreign adoption is the most important thing on the agenda. If the deputies do pass a bill, they should limit it to controlling the gray-market aspects of adoption -- not keeping kids from finding homes.