The role of the US Department of State in the case of Max Shatto

The latest fatality of an adoptee from Russia was all over the news the past few days. The Russian media are heavily focused on this case, while the American press mostly reprinted the same Associated Press article in all major news papers and news sites.

The case of Max Shatto (Maxim Kuzmin) raises many questions, the most prominent of which: why has the US Department of State not reacted to this case before Russian authorities did?

For months Adoptionland has been in a frenzy about Russia's decision to ban adoptions to the United States. Prior to that decision, promises were made by the US Department of State to improve monitoring of Russian adoptions. The case of Max Shatto shows once more, the US Department of State to date is not capable of properly monitoring adoptions from Russia, and any promise to do so can not be kept or guaranteed.

Max Shatto's abuse case is not the first case Russian authorities have discovered before the US Department of State was able to report it to Russian authorities. In fact, most of these abuse cases, in the last couple of years, have been reported by Russian authorities, first.

All too often, when it comes to abuse/deaths in adoptive homes, the US Department of State seems to be mostly reactive. When eventually informed by local or state authorities, The State Department may follow up, but no formal initiative is actively taken to provide post-placement monitoring, reflecting  the well-being of foreign born adoptees. This lack of initiative makes any adoption agreement between two countries moot and worrisome, particularly if child safety, post placement, is to be a priority.

Inter-country adoption treaties are always between countries and therefore require oversight at the national level. It appears the US is not willing to implement this central over-sight, as indicated by oppositional parties vehemently against treaties like the UNCRC  -- a treaty that would made the well-being of children a federal issue. In essence, the US Department of State is not willing to make waves against those who insist government oversight must be kept out of the homes of parents. Appeasing these critics puts all adopted children (foreign and domestic) at risk. 

Reality shows just how impotent the US Department of State is when it comes to executing the tasks required by an adoption treaty. Sure, the State Department will monitor foreign immigration numbers, and it will boast its compliance to Hague requirements, but it will not admit its powers in oversight are limited, leading to a whole new set of failures seen in Adoptionland.

All one has to do is look how uninvolved the US Department of State is in regards to fulfilling Hague requirements.  The US Department of State, as a Central Authority, is obligated to investigate and accredit adoption agencies.  However, this task and procedure has been out-sourced to the Council on Accreditation, an organization that barely has the resources to perform its most basic tasks. In short, the US Department of State is far less involved in inter-country adoption than the Central Authorities of other receiving countries.

Of course the US Department of State could be more involved in monitoring the well-being of adoptees, but doing so requires the ruffling of feathers.

In order for the US Department of State to respond more quickly to abuse of inter-country adoptees, it would need to get the right signals from Child Protective Services. This may be too much to ask. Child Protective Services, though federally mandated, is entirely run at the state level. Mandating states to report the US Department of State about abuse of foreign born adoptees may easily be seen as federal over-reach.

As long as the US Department of State cannot properly control and over-see the adoption process required for foreign born children, it is silly to think that any inter-country adoption treaty can be fully respected by the US.


I don't understand

In other adoption matters, senators and adoption lobby groups have been urging other countries, like Vietnam, to pass stronger laws to better monitor the adoption process -- so adoptions for Americans can resume.

But as much as these senators/lobby groups push for ICA, and beg for a central authority to oversee the process, the USA itself lacks the very same central authority.

If the USA expects certain requirements from certain sending foreign countries, and yet still fails to provide the same damn requirements, I think the US rules for other countries are nothing more than bullshit to me.


You are very right. The US does have a Central Authority as defined by the Hague Convention, but it lacks central authority when it comes to monitoring the adoption process of foreign born children.

This is actually a very old problem. Adoption is treated as a state issue, but its practice is cross borders. This has been exploited by baby brokers all through the ages and is a running theme in all topics related to the dark side of adoption. Whether we look at baby selling, abuse in adoptive families, adoption disruptions, father's rights violations, coerced adoption, the complicated relationship between states and the federal government almost always plays a role.

Every hole in the complex fabric of the child placement system in the US will be exploited by the adoption industry; it has always done so, since the days of the Ideal Maternity Home.

I wish people in politics would be less hypocritical and treat adoption as the economic activity it so often is. It would make the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution applicable to adoption, authorizing federal control over adoption. That would take away a lot of the loopholes leading to sloppy and immoral work by those employed by the adoption industry.

Pound Pup Legacy