July 12, 2005

Russia wants foreigners tested before adoptions

By Oliver Bullough

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreigners adopting Russian children
should be required to have parenting lessons and psychological
tests, following the murder of an adopted Russian child in the
United States, a ministry said on Tuesday.

Adoption agencies welcomed the call, saying tighter
regulation would prevent children being adopted through shady
intermediaries that send them to unqualified parents.

The Education Ministry, which oversees the adoption of
thousands of Russian children by foreigners every ear, was
responding to the murder this month in Virginia of a
two-year-old girl from Russia.

Her adoptive mother Peggy Sue Hilt was charged last week
with the killing.

The incident has been followed closely in Russia, the
latest in a string of such scandals including the conviction of
a U.S. citizen for the murder of her Russian adoptive son in

"To prevent cases of passing children to unprepared
families ... and to reduce the risk of cruel treatment of
children, the ministry has prepared changes and additions to
the government orders regulating adoptions," the ministry said
in a statement.

Russia has more than 150,000 children available for
adoption, many of them in orphanages, and is trying to
encourage prospective parents to come forward -- including via
a Web site that lets you pick the hair and eye color of your

Around 130,000 children were orphaned or abandoned last
year, and some officials have put the total number of orphans
in Russia as high as two million.

Foreigners account for more than half of Russia's 15,000
annual adoptions, most of them going to the United States, but
many officials have demanded curbs after highly published
stories of foreigners abusing Russian children.

The education ministry said the government should demand
foreigners seeking children to undergo mental health checks.

It said there should be "compulsory psychological testing"
of candidates "before their arrival in Russia," the ministry

Legislation has been prepared to exclude adoption by
unregistered agencies.

Adoption agencies and child protection workers said
sensible new rules would protect children without hindering
foreigners who want to give orphans a better life.

"Of course we support this... we have discussed this with
the other agencies," said Ludmila Babich of adoption agency
Happy Families International's Moscow office.