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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Adoptions Get the Go-Ahead

Russia is reopening its doors to foreign adoptions, months after they all but ground to a halt due to bureaucratic barriers.

Seven U.S. adoption agencies have recently been reaccredited to work in Russia, Sergei Vitelis, an official at the Education and Science Ministry who deals with children's issues, confirmed Wednesday.

Vitelis said he could not provide further details, and the ministry's press service did not respond to questions sent by e-mail Wednesday afternoon.

But the National Council for Adoption, a U.S. research and advocacy organization, said the reaccreditations came over the past two weeks and more agencies are expected to have their licenses renewed soon.

"This will benefit many thousands of children," Thomas Atwood, the organization's president, said by telephone from Alexandria, Virginia.

Foreign adoption agencies working in Russia have not had much to cheer about in the past few years.

In 2005, after the well-publicized deaths of several Russian children at the hands of their adoptive parents in the United States, influential State Duma deputies called for a moratorium on foreign adoptions.

Child advocates criticized the idea, arguing that the number of deadly abuse cases was minuscule compared with the number of children adopted from Russian orphanages by foreign parents.

Russia at the time was the second most popular country for international adoptions by U.S. parents, after China, according to the U.S. State Department.

The moratorium never happened, but foreign adoption agencies began facing greater bureaucratic hurdles. A law passed in 2006 forced them to reregister as nongovernmental organizations.

Many agencies were left hanging after applying for reaccreditation in January. The last two agencies to have accreditation saw their licenses expire in April.

Officials in the Education and Science Ministry, the main government body that deals with international adoption, blamed the delay on bureaucratic hassles, pointing out that each application needed approval from the Interior and Foreign ministries.

Some child advocates, however, suggested that the authorities might have deliberately thrown a wrench into the works because of hostility toward foreign adoption.

Whatever the case, the impasse seems to have ended.

"We believe this to be a substantial step in the direction of the stability of Russian adoption," reads a statement on the web site of the International Assistance Group, one of the agencies that was reaccredited.

The statement appears along with a copy of the agency's new accreditation document from the Education and Science Ministry, dated June 27.

Atwood, of the National Council for Adoption, said he was happy that the agencies had been reaccredited, but he added that the transition to the new rules could have been smoother for the sake of the children waiting for homes.

The seven U.S. agencies to be reaccredited represent only a small portion of the 89 foreign agencies to have accreditation in 2006 before the new requirements went into place. It was not clear Wednesday whether any foreign agencies from countries other than the United States had been reaccredited.

The director of a Moscow charity that works with mentally disabled children expressed happiness at the news when a reporter told him about it. "The government has taken a great step," said Sergei Andrushin, the director of Diema's Dream. "What you said is simply wonderful."

The National Council for Adoption identified the seven agencies to be reaccredited as The Cradle, based in Evanston, Illinois; Cradle of Hope, based in Silver Spring, Maryland; Family and Children's Agency, based in Norwalk, Connecticut; Frank Adoption Center, based in Raleigh, North Carolina; International Assistance Group, based in Oakmont, Pennsylvania; Children's Home Society & Family Services, based in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Catholic Social Services.