Russian officials call for suspension of adoptions to U.S. parents after death of Dillsburg-area boy
By LARA BRENCKLE
The death of a Dillsburg-area boy has prompted Russian officials to call for a suspension of adoptions to U.S. parents and sparked demands for an investigation into whether the Russian-born boy’s adoption was legal.
The beating death of Nathaniel Craver, who was born Ivan Skorobogatov, was called “an outrage” Thursday by Andrei Sitov, bureau chief for Russia’s ITAR-TASS wire service. The state news agency and independent news media from that country have been following the story, with interest so high that some news outlets sent crews to York County.
“Obviously, the biggest concern here is that it [deaths of Russian adopted children] keeps happening,” Sitov said. “The latest figures we’ve seen is 15 or 16 in the last several years.”
Nathaniel Craver was adopted from Russia by Nanette and Michael Craver along with his twin sister in 2003.
Nanette and Michael Craver of Carroll Township are charged with killing Nathaniel, who died Aug. 25. The 7-year-old had 80 wounds in various stages of healing, according to authorities. The couple were charged last week.
Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported that the Investigative Committee of Russia’s prosecutor general’s office is planning to investigate the legality of the adoption of Nathaniel and his twin sister, Elizabeth, from that country.
RIA-Novosti also reported that a Russian senator had proposed a temporary ban on American adoption of Russian children in response to the Craver case.
It would not be the first time Russia has imposed restrictions or suspended adoptions.
In 2007, MSNBC reported Russia suspended adoptions temporarily to allow implementation of new rules on foreign adoptions, changes created in light of previous abuse deaths.
The changes were in line with tightened regulations for adopting from China and concerns over Guatemalan adoptions.
Nathaniel’s death, Sitov said, is eerily similar to the death of Viktor Matthey, born Viktor Tulimov.
Viktor and his twin brothers had been adopted by Robert and Brenda Matthey in 1999.
By 2000, Viktor was dead, starved and neglected by his adoptive parents in New Jersey.
After the Mattheys’ conviction, Robert’s mother, Phyllis Matthey-Johnson, adopted the twins and eventually moved to Carroll Township
“I just keep going over all the similarities,” Matthey-Johnson said. “I plan to go to as many of the hearings as I can. It’s really sad and I have a lot of questions. How were these children allowed to be returned?”
Police reports indicated York County Children and Youth had briefly removed the children from the Cravers' home, but then returned them. After the investigation was concluded, the Cravers removed the twins from public school to home school them.
Adopting a child from Russia is no easy task.
That’s why Rachel Kuhr, director of adoption services for the Jewish Family Service of Greater Harrisburg, said she was very concerned about what might happen to local families who have adoptions in process.
The U.S. State Department will notify her of any changes or suspensions, she said. Often, when Russia suspends adoptions, they rewrite policies to add additional protections to children.
Russian adoptions require at least three visits to the country, intense scrutiny, training sessions, a mountain of international paperwork and tens of thousands of dollars.
“There is a high level of commitment families have to make,” said Kuhr.
The parents are subject to a home study before the adoption and periodic check-ins during the first years of the child’s residency, Kuhr said. In some cases, parents are required to send yearly pictures back to Russia.
Between the travel costs and the adoption itself, it’s common to spend a full year’s salary to bring a child home.
“That’s a lot of money to get a child in order to not take care of them,” she said. “It’s a huge commitment, and you have to convince a lot of people you’re going to do a good job.”
Sitov said, according to his research, the Cravers passed Russia’s requirements for post-adoption evaluation at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months following placement.
Staff writer Daniel Victor contributed to this report.