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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Adoption Delays Tied To Political Tensions

ReutersSimon and Leslie Alexander holding their newly adopted son, Jack.
NEW YORK -- Some U.S. couples hoping to adopt children from Russia are concerned that rising political tensions between the two countries could add further delays to their bids to become parents.

"We're getting kicked when we're down," said Kathleen Dorrian, 41, a New York police officer who started the process to adopt a child from Russia with her husband, Joseph, 48, in October 2005.

Under new Russian laws meant to boost domestic adoptions, agencies that arrange international adoptions must seek re-accreditation in a slow process involving multiple government agencies. No U.S. agencies are now accredited to organize adoptions in Russia, and Moscow has given no indication of how long the re-accreditation process will take. Independent adoptions are still allowed.

"From the beginning everybody was very honest that things aren't that great in Russia, but just stick with it," Dorrian said. "I think they want to keep these children in the country, to me I think that has a lot to do with it."

The tightening of the adoption process had been demanded by Russian politicians shocked by a series of well-publicized murders of Russian children abroad. More than a dozen adopted children have been killed by U.S. parents over the past decade.

Some U.S. agencies, parents and experts have raised concerns that the accreditation process could become caught up in a rise in political tensions between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin.

"[Adoption is] seen as a fraught issue for Russians in general, which is therefore going to be particularly sensitive to changes in U.S.-Russia relations," said Cathy Nepomnyashchy, a professor at Columbia University in New York.

Dale Herspring, a political science professor and Russian expert at Kansas State University, said he had no doubt that the mood in the Kremlin has a "trickle down" effect.

"That does not mean that Putin gave an order to slow down or create problems when it comes to adoptions," he said. "If U.S.-Russian relations are bad, this means that those bureaucrats who don't want to see Russian children leave the country, have a stronger position to resist adoptions."

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it had been "actively encouraging the Russian government to complete its reviews and proceed with appropriate accreditations or re-accreditations as expeditiously as possible."

Officials at the Russian Embassy in Washington were not immediately available for comment.

"There are people on both sides of the government who are very happy for this to happen, and truly the officials on the ground and the embassy were very happy for us," said Simon Alexander, 38, a New York photographer who adopted a 16-month-old boy, Jack, from Russia last month with his wife, Leslie.

"But in a greater sense, politically it's a football that people are kicking around."