Blog - Russian Adoption Help

Fact and opinion about the state of International Adoptions in Russia.

US and Russia Sign Bilateral Adoption Agreement

Today, July 13, 2011, in Washington, DC, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signed a landmark bilateral adoption agreement that imposes cooperative regulation on adoptions between the two countries for the first time. The agreement has been in the works for the last 15 months, during which negotiators from both countries have met several times to hammer out the details.

While the text of the agreement has not yet been released, the US Department of State posted a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) to its Intercountry Adoptions website today. The FAQ identifies the main components of the agreement, and addresses many of the rumors that have been circulating while the negotiations have been underway.

For example, one of the most persistent rumors has been that the agreement would somehow cover all adoptions from Russia to the US, retroactively. The final item in the FAQ list indicates that the agreement is not retroactive.

Another rumored component of the agreement is the abolition of independent adoption from Russia as a viable approach for American families. The FAQ indicates that this is true. Once the agreement enters force (which will require further action on the part of both countries), American families will be able to adopt from Russia only through agencies approved by the Russian authorities. The precise details of this will likely be known only after the text of the agreement is published. Meanwhile, the FAQ also indicates that families who are registered for adoption with the Russian authorities before the agreement enters force will be permitted to continue their adoptions. How that plays out in practice remains to be seen.

The FAQ mentions nothing about the status of post-placement reports, how they are to be handled, or the continued use of the MoE "black list" by the Russian authorities for enforcement. Both the FAQ and a related news item published by the USCIS mention improvements to post-placement report monitoring in a general sense, but I suspect detailed answers will have to wait for the full text of the agreement to be published somewhere.

For more information, please review the FAQ published by the US Department of State. I will continue to watch for the text of the agreement and will post it when I find it.

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Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM


Mid-Year MoE Black List Update

The Russian Ministry of Education and Science (MoE) has updated its list of home study and post-placement providers for whom one or more post-placement reports are considered missing. This release, posted as usual to the MoE's official "Adoption in Russia" website (, was dated June 7, 2011 but was posted a few weeks later.

As was the case in January, the ministerial letter to which this list was attached does not include verbiage recommending that regional adoption authorities not accept documents from home study providers on the list. While it is unclear whether that omission indicates a shift in policy, it may serve to take some of the bite out of appearing on the list.

This new list shows 140 USA providers total. Of those, 43 (by my count) were added since January, and 54 were removed since January, for a net reduction of 11 USA providers.

I noticed that some Russian regions, which did not report any providers in January, listed many of the same providers on this list that they reported prior to last January. What this means is unclear, but I suspect that the removal of a provider from any given list does not always mean that the issue which placed those providers on the list has been cleared up; it may simply mean that the region which listed them may not have sent an update to the MoE for one list.

If your provider was removed this time, congratulations! If your provider was added, or is still on the list, please see my article about how to be removed from the list.

Providers from the USA may have a short time to be concerned about this list. Reportedly, a new bilateral adoption agreement between Russia and the USA is due to be signed during the Russian Foreign Minister's trip to the USA next week. That agreement has been rumored to include a new regime for managing post-placement reports. If true, that may mean that the regularly-updated MoE black list may no longer affect American providers after the agreement enters force. Time will tell.

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Published: Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM


New Help for UK Pre-Adoptive Parents

UK Russian Adoption Guide
Over the last twenty years, since Russia opened to foreign adoptions, the increasingly complex world of Russian adoption to foreigners has been navigated by those who are new to it with help from those who have done it. In some cases, the helpers built adoption agencies or other professional services. In other cases, knowledge captured from hard-won experience has been shared through the Internet, through support groups, and even through books.

Most of the published material is written from a USA perspective. While helpful, these resources do not provide a comprehensive view of the process for pre-adoptive parents from other countries, who must often figure it out on their own while navigating their home countries' bureaucracies. Pre-adoptive parents in the UK now have another choice: a new book written just for them, with specifics on all aspects of the Russian adoption process.

Anna Francis, a UK resident and adoptive mother to a Russian-born child, recently published Russian Adoption: A Practical Guide. This deceptively small book packs a wealth of information into 115 pages, serving as a step-by-step companion to any UK parent navigating the Russian adoption process. Topics covered range from the ponderous (how to get started, how to choose a facilitator, and how to assess a referral) to the more well-defined aspects of a Russian adoption (how to notarize and apostille documents, what specific documents are needed for registration and court, how to get Russian visas, and so on).

Anna organized the book chronologically, which allows the reader to digest it one chapter at a time while going through the adoption process. This approach means that the UK pre-adoptive parent need not try to become an expert on everything at the outset. The book contains sufficient detail that readers should feel almost as if they have already experienced it before they have gone through the process themselves. For example, the section covering the court appearance was so thorough that I imagined myself sitting in the Russian courtroom and listening to the proceedings while Anna and her husband were adopting their daughter.

Perhaps the most helpful section of the book describes in detail what to expect during the interactions with various Russian officials, from the MOE interview to the court appearance. Here again, Anna's careful attention to detail and candid explanations of where mistakes can be made will undoubtedly help other pre-adoptive parents avoid those errors. It will also serve to wipe away much anxiety caused by not knowing what to expect.

Every guide book has its strengths and weaknesses. While this book has many strengths, one area of weakness is that the author's examples all draw from her personal experience in a single Russian region, which happens to be well-known as a difficult region for international adoptions. This means that the region-specific details in the book may make the requirements seem more complex than UK pre-adoptive parents will find in other regions, and the author's experiences may lead her advice to be more cautious than what is required in other regions. Still, in my experience, if one must generalize from specifics, it is better to start with more detailed specifics. The best surprises are those in which we discover things are not as difficult as we thought!

Anna has also included a number of helpful case studies near the end of the book, which should provide UK readers with a sense of the uniqueness of each adoptive parent's journey. It also encourages the reader that despite the considerable effort, a Russian adoption is possible, and that it can be as rewarding as people hope it will be.

Any UK parent hoping to adopt a child in Russia should read this book. The cover price, at £16.99, is a bargain for access to the detailed experience and resources contained therein. For more information, please visit And tell them Jim sent you.

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Published: Friday, March 25, 2011 at 6:00 PM


In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

For the better part of the last year, I have been following the progress of a State Duma bill designed to amend the Russian Family Code so that adoptions of Russian children to foreign parents would be prevented if those parents' countries did not enact a bilateral adoption agreement with Russia. That bill, State Duma Bill No. 364094-5 (About Amendments to Article 124 and 165 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation), was originally proposed in the wake of the Justin Hansen / Artyom Savaliev scandal almost a year ago.

At the time, I wrote on this blog that I thought the bill was introduced as a means to back up the threats of the Russian authorities to suspend adoptions to Americans unless they concluded a bilateral agreement with Russia. That assertion appears to have been true; the bill languished in committee for a while, and was repeatedly scheduled for a first vote in the State Duma during 2010 and into January of this year. Each time the bill approached a vote, the State Duma rescheduled it. Most recently, the bill was scheduled for a vote in late January, but it was tabled again by one of the State Duma members. Since then, we have heard nothing.

Meanwhile, the Russian authorities have continued to push for a bilateral adoption agreement with the United States of America and other countries, including France. Throughout the last year, the Russian and American negotiating teams have managed to hammer out an agreement that is now reportedly undergoing detailed legal review in both countries. So, it appears that negotiations over major points of interest have been concluded, even though the agreement has not yet been signed or entered force.

Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, the State Duma Bill's official record was updated recently to indicate that the bill has been withdrawn from consideration at the request of its sponsor, the Republic of Bashkortostan, which is one of Russia's 80+ regions. This means that the bill is now officially inactive; it will not be scheduled for any further votes. It is no longer a threat.

The Russian-American bilateral adoption agreement, however, is still in process. Just this week, the Russian ombudsman for Children's Rights, Pavel Astakhov, indicated in a Russian-language interview that the agreement may be signed as early as the beginning of May.

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Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 11:04 AM


An Updated Data Bank Photo-Listing

Easily the most popular feature on the Russian Adoption Help website is the article providing instructions for how to search the Russian Federal Ministry of Education and Science (MoE)'s official photo-listing of children who may be available for adoption in Russia. Since the launch of their official adoption-related website, in 2005, the MoE has provided this tool as a means to publicize the children available for Russian families to adopt. However, it wasn't long before many foreign pre-adoptive parents discovered it as well.

Russian Adoption Help has been providing instructions in English for pre-adoptive parents for a few years. But recently, in early February, the MoE launched a new website design for, which gives the website a more modern, streamlined appearance. At the same time, they updated the search interface and result display for the photo-listing. The new look also meant that the English-language instructions needed an update, which was completed this weekend.

You can find the updated instructions, along with links to the photo-listing, at the following link:

If you use the instructions, I would love to hear your comments about them. Please feel free to post them as a comment on this blog!

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Published: Monday, February 14, 2011 at 12:08 AM


State Duma Puts Vote on Hold Again

On January 26, the State Duma was scheduled to vote on bill No. 364094-5, which would prevent adoption of Russian children to foreigners whose countries do not have a bilateral adoption agreement with Russia. However, in what has become a repeating occurrence with this bill, the State Duma has decided to postpone the first vote on this bill to a later date.

This time, as happened once before, the postponement was made at the specific request of a State Member, as opposed to an administrative scheduling issue. The reasoning behind the specific request was not divulged in the bill's official record on the State Duma website.

No new date was provided. This same scenario happened last December; it took a couple of weeks for the bill to be rescheduled. I will continue to watch and will provide another update when the rescheduled vote is announced.

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Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 11:12 PM


Russian Officials Update the Black List Following a Long Interval

EDITED: The list has been updated since this blog post. For the most current list, please see the links in my article about the black list.

This week, after almost six months, the Russian officials in the Ministry of Education and Science (MoE) updated their list of home study and post-placement providers from whom one or more post-placement reports are considered missing. If you aren’t familiar with the list or its purpose, please see my article about the black list on the Russian Adoption Help website. Pre-adoptive parents and home study providers should check this latest version of the list to verify their status. If a provider appears on the list, there is a potential for significant delay in the pending adoption process of any client of that provider.

This new list is published as an attachment to a ministerial letter posted on the official Adoption in Russia website by the federal MoE. As always, it features the removal, continuation, and addition of many providers. On this list, 152 USA-based providers are listed. By my count, 43 USA providers were removed this time. Also, 61 USA-based providers appear to have been added. Most of the providers who were added this time have appeared on previous editions of the list, but there are about a dozen first-time appearances as well.

If your provider was removed this time, congratulations! If your provider was added, or is still on the list, please see my article about how to be removed from the list.

In the future, I anticipate that the list will continue to be published but only countries that do not have an active bilateral adoption agreement with Russia will probably be listed. I am making this prediction based on two things: 1) Italy used to appear on the list but was completely removed once the bilateral agreement with Italy went into effect, and 2) my understanding is that the pending Russia-USA agreement contains a provision for a central authority to manage the post-placement reporting aspect. This means that the United States providers may soon find some relief if the pending bilateral agreement is signed and enters force this year.

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Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 12:23 AM