Russian Ban on American Adoptions

Carolyn Borock

Air Stream

The issue of international adoptions took a major turn in early 2013, when Russia, which had been a very popular country for American adoptions, passed a law which barred Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Russia’s giant plan was to “poke” the American population by using Russian children as pawns in an international game. The Russian government wanted to retaliate against the US for passing the Magnitsky Act, a US law that was created in response to the investigation into corruption, tax fraud and human rights abuses by Russian officials.

The circumstances which led to the ban on American-Russian adoptions began in 2008 with claims of corruption and tax fraud filed against an American-Russian investment firm. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who worked for the investment firm, and in defending against the corruption claim uncovered the wrong-doing against  Russian officials. Instead of charges being filed against the officials, Magnitsky’s investigation and testimony resulted in his own arrest for tax evasion and eventually, his death in prison while waiting for trial. Although officially a “heart attack”, it was clear that Magnitsky was subject to what amounted to torture for his refusal to back down from the corruption allegations and died as a result of being denied medical care in prison. In response to pressure from the American citizens whose firm Magnitsky worked for, the US in 2012 passed the Magnitsky Act. The Act allowed the US to freeze the assets of and hold responsible the individual officials involved in the corruption scandal and human rights abuses, rather than institute sanctions against Russia itself. (Washington Post article)

Several months later, the Anti-American Adoption bill became Russian law. Why did the Russians choose to ban Americans from adopting Russian children. why not something else?

The “Anti-American Adoption Bill” is a heartless way to get the attention of many Americans by hitting them emotionally. The action could affect hundreds of U.S. families seeking to adopt, not to mention the Russian orphans, who now must languish in orphanages rather than be adopted into a loving home. Americans adopted close to 1,000 Russian children in 2012, according to U.S. State Department figures, The most innocent and vulnerable of Russian citizens – its orphaned children – are being punished to protect corrupt Russian officials so they can line their pockets, while depriving Americans of the opportunity to provide a loving home for a child or children. How can Russia get away with that?

According to the, the uncomfortable truth is that underneath the posturing, Vladimir Putin has a point. “The international adoption trade is a shady business – about 25,000 babies are adopted across borders every year; with half of them going to the US. However loving the prospective parents, in many nations there exists, according to the children's rights charity Terre des Hommes, "an industry around adoption in which profit, rather than the best interests of the child, takes centre stage".

Unfortunately, there have been several well-publicized incidents where orphans adopted from Russia by Americans did not end well. In 2008 Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler adopted by Americans, died after being left in a sweltering car for hours. His adoptive parents were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.“  The Russian Anti-Adoption bill is named for him.

Unfortunately, however, the Yakovlev case was not the only famous case that gave the Russian government an excuse to ban Americans from adopting. In 2010, a seven-year old boy adopted from a Russian orphanage by a Tennessee woman was returned to Russia by himself on an airplane, with a note that he was being returned because he was violent and had psychological problems. At that time, the Russian government threatened to suspend the American adoption program. It was also noted that there had been several failed adoptions, including three in which the children died. (

All of this provided a “valid basis” for Putin and Russia to create a bill which “protects” Russian orphans from Americans, the same way that the intent of the Magitsky law is to punish human rights violations.  However, the Yakovlev bill was not passed by the Russian government until four years after Dima Yakovlev passed away, and two years after the boy was returned on the plane, and pushed through very quickly after the Magnitsky bill was passed. It seems obvious that the Anti-adoption bill was created in retaliation, using the orphans for an excuse.

The US knew that the Russian government wanted to retaliate against the US. Why did the Russian government  choose to retaliate by banning Americans from adopting Russian children, why not something else, like trade? Russia makes a lot of money from the adoption process and they treat the children like an item. These are children not items.

In conclusion, Russia is using the children of their own country to hurt the Americans that fell in love with them, and hurts the Russian children who need loving homes; this is a situation in which neither side wins.

Works Cited :

(Washington Post article):

"Russia's Ban on American Adoptions Won't Go into Effect until next Year." Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.,:

Penny, Laurie. "Russia's Ban on US Adoption Isn't about Children's Rights." N.p., n.d. Web.

"Boy Sent Back to Russia; Adoption Ban Urged." N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.