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Hope for pending adoptions? Russian ban won't take effect right away

Orphan children at the Nelidovo Rehabilitation Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities in Russia.
Orphan children at the Nelidovo Rehabilitation Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities in Russia.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

The Russian goverment has announced that its new ban on adoptions to the United States from that country won't take effect for a year. And while the U.S. State Department has yet to post updated details on its adoptions page, adoption experts are trying to make sense of what the delay means for would-be adoptive parents. 

Russia is one of the top three nations from which Americans adopt children. At the end of December, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the ban into lawObservers expected it to take effect soon afterward, leaving adoptions in progress up in the air. Now, the Russian government says it won't enact the ban for another year.

The two countries maintain a bilateral adoption agreement, and it does require a year's notice before either government can withdraw from it. But public reaction has also likely played a part, said Tifany Markee, an immigration attorney in San Diego who handles international adoptions.

"My suspicion is there was probably a giant outcry that took effect, and that essentially they have done this to save face," Markee said by phone.

When Putin signed the bill, people expected that the most immediate impact would be to a reported 46 American families in the later stages of adopting a Russian child; it would also affect about 1,500 more who had begun the process.

Following the Russian government's announcement, a State Department spokeswoman told Bloomberg News that she was "very hopeful" that families could complete adoptions in progress. But even if that happened, it wouldn't be wise for U.S. families just starting the adoption process in Russia to continue, Markee said.

"What it does is give a glimmer of hope to those families who were between trips, or within their waiting period," she said. 

Although an adoption in Russia can happen relatively quickly, a year is usually not enough to pull it off from beginning to end, Markee said. Depending on the adoptive family and the child in question, the process can take between 12 and 18 months and three required trips to Russia for the adoptive parents. The final one, to take physical custody of the child and bring him or her to the United States, usually takes place after a 10-day waiting period once officials finalize the adoption.

While adoptions in progress may be able to continue, "it also means that from an ethical standpoint, agencies should not accept any new clients" seeking to adopt children in Russia, Markee said.

When Russia's president signed the ban last month, this site featured an informative Q&A with Lori Weiner, director of Adoption Options, Inc. , an agency specializing in international adoptions that's placed hundreds of Russian children with U.S. families. Read what she had to say about how the ban affects future adoption prospects here

The new rules in Russia will also likely come up during a public town hall event on adoptions taking place this Saturday, Jan. 12 at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum; click here to RSVP.