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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Adoptions Are Grinding to a Halt

Milana Mikhailovskaya, 3, was supposed to be welcomed by her adoptive U.S. parents last year. She also was to undergo an operation for a facial tumor that could leave her blind.

But the little girl and her hopeful parents cannot do anything but wait after the government failed to renew the license of the foreign adoption agency handling their case 10 months ago.

Now, no foreign adoption agencies are processing applications, the government confirmed Thursday. Two of the last agencies operating in Russia -- the Alliance for Children in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Children of the World Adoption Agency, in Syosset, New York -- saw their licenses expire Wednesday.

Complicated bureaucracy is delaying the approval of new accreditation for all of the 89 foreign agencies that operated in Russia just a year ago. New accreditation rules were introduced last year following an outcry over the deaths of several adopted Russian children abroad. At least 13 children adopted in the United States and one in Canada have been killed by their adopted parents in the past 10 years.

The federal agency overseeing adoptions said most of the agencies had applied for new licenses in January.

The process for accreditation is moving slowly, with approval needed from the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and other agencies. It takes up to three months to get an answer from each agency, said Alla Dzugayeva, head of the child protection department in the Education and Science Ministry.

Another problem, she said, was that agencies had made mistakes on their application forms and had to be asked to redo them.

"There are no plans to reduce the number of agencies," Dzugayeva said. "Each agency will be examined individually by a commission, and it will receive accreditation if there are no complaints against it."

At least 20 foreign agencies, however, have been waiting for new licenses for nearly a year.

Child advocates suggested that authorities might have thrown a wrench into the works. "I do not exclude the possibility that the process has been deliberately slowed down by the State Duma," said Boris Altshuler, head of the Right of the Child advocacy group.

Altshuler said the government commission should have begun approving accreditation permits a long time ago.

After the deaths of several adopted children in 2005, many influential Duma deputies demanded that a moratorium be imposed on all foreign adoptions.

Also delaying adoptions is a requirement under a 2006 law forcing agencies to reregister as nongovernmental organizations.

Currently, there are more than 250,000 orphans in Russia. Last year, U.S. parents adopted 3,693 children, a drop from 4,594 the previous year, which agencies said was related to the new rules.

Overall, the change has been welcomed by adoption agencies as a way to better protect the interests of the children who are being adopted.

"It is very good as it is an attempt to make sure that all agencies work in a correct way," said Filis Casey, executive director of the Alliance for Children, who has worked in adoption since 1990.

But, she said, "it is sad that there are no accredited agencies in Russia because there are children in need now. I am hopeful that the accreditation process will move forward."

Dzugayeva, the ministry official, said independent adoptions were still allowed, permitting foreign parents to bypass agencies in urgent cases.

That is what Milana's prospective parents are trying to do. David and Elizabeth Jaffin of Connecticut appealed to a Russian court to speed up the adoption last month.

"Milana's room has been ready for her since last summer," the couple said in a letter sent to the court and provided by Happy Families, a New York-based adoption agency. "She needs to begin her medical treatments as soon as possible to prevent further facial deformity."

The tumor is not life-threatening, but it is cancerous, said Natasha Shaginian, the head of Happy Families.

"If this girl does not have surgery now, soon she won't be able to see," she said.