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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus to Boost Foreign Adoptions

MINSK -- Belarus will allow more adoptions by foreigners this year but wants to avoid some of the excesses seen in neighboring Russia, a government minister said Monday.

Belarus sharply reduced foreign adoptions last year and limited trips abroad for treatment after an Italian family prevented a Belarussian girl from returning home for three weeks on grounds she had been mistreated at an orphanage.

But Belarussian Education Minister Alexander Radkov, whose signature is required for any foreign adoption, said in an interview that his country sought to embrace change.

He said only 30 foreign adoptions were allowed last year but plans call for about 150 to 200 per year under new, tougher rules.

Radkov said authorities wanted orphaned or abandoned children to remain in the country as much as possible.

"We want to be able to defend our people, our children, wherever they may be.

"The policy of our president, our government aims to have children received where they are, in the country where they are born," Radkov said.

Belarus wants to avoid some of the excesses in Russia, where officials have tried to restrict adoptions to officially registered agencies to limit the number of children leaving the country and to protect them from inappropriate families.

Such measures have been demanded by nationalist lawmakers shocked by a series of well-publicized murders of Russian children abroad -- mainly in the United States.

The tens of thousands of children available for adoption in Russia often live in poorly funded orphanages. Activists say as many as 2 million other orphans may live without state help.

Radkov said Belarus would conclude separate agreements with individual countries calling for periodic checks via Belarussian consulates on adopted children in their new homes.

Radkov also defended the introduction of new regulations in Belarus enabling authorities, without court intervention, to take children away from parents deemed to have an "immoral way of life."

"This is a preventive measure. Before a court is involved in denying parents their rights, we are offering parents the chance to correct the situation," he said.

Belarus had previously introduced a law obliging parents failing to care for their children to pay in full for their stay in a state orphanage and also calling for the confiscation of their property.