By Freeman Klopott
Jan 11, 2009 D.C Examiner
The U.S. State Department is seeking a treaty on adoption with Russia, reacting to a threat from Moscow earlier this month not to permit children to be adopted into the United States in response to the death of a Russian infant in Virginia.
The dispute over adoptions has become heated since a Fairfax County judge acquitted Miles Harrison, 49, of involuntary manslaughter charges in December. The Purcellville father discovered his Russian-born adopted infant son dead in his car after leaving him there for more than nine hours on a hot July day.
Russian news outlets have been aggressively covering the story of Chase Harrison’s death, raising questions about adoption policies and at times questioning Americans’ priorities when they adopt foreign-born children. Meanwhile, relations between the U.S. and Russia have soured, particularly since Russia’s August invasion of Georgia.
With the threat to end adoptions on the table, the State Department said in a statement provided to The Examiner on Friday, “We strongly encourage the Government of the Russian Federation to move forward with ratifying the Hague Convention on Inter-County Adoption, which we believe is the best means to further our mutual goals for increasing protections for children.”
The U.S. signed the treaty in December 2007, along with 69 other countries, and implemented the policies in April. In its statement, the State Department said Russia’s signing the treaty would ensure adoptive parents undergo parenting classes.
U.S. adoption officials said Russia already has many of the policies required by the Hague treaty in place, including requirements for psychological testing and others regarding home visits. Those policies have been generated in the last 15 years as inter-country adoption has become increasingly popular and incidents of mistreatment have cropped up.
But Russia joining the treaty would still be beneficial to both children adopted from Russian and the worldwide adoption community, said Chuck Johnson, vice president of the National Council for Adoption, a Virginia-based nonprofit adoption advocacy group.
“With countries like China signing the Hague treaty, the expectation is that the whole field will rise to that standard for adoptions,” Johnson said. As more countries sign the treaty, it’s likely that adoption agencies will start applying the treaty’s standards to all countries regardless of their signing it, he said. Adding Russia to the mix would increase that likelihood, he said.