No Changes So Far in Russia, Says Orphan Ministry

Russia has threatened to freeze child adoptions to U.S. citizens, but so far there seems to be no changes, said a Christian ministry with an adoption program in Russia.

Buckner International's Russia staff said they have not received any notice of changed policies regarding international adoptions.

"[There] has been no official announcement from the Ministry of Education regarding the suspension of adoptions," said Andrei Pukhlov, director of Buckner International Russia's adoption program, to Mission Network News.

Buckner has helped placed more than 250 Russian children with families over the course of 15 years. The international Christian ministry provides care and resources for orphans and at-risk children in the United States and in more than 50 countries.

But a recent international incident involving an adopted Russian boy and a U.S. woman threatens to suspend adoption between Russia and the United States.

An 8-year-old Russian boy adopted by a Tennessee woman was sent on a one-way flight to Moscow. The American woman hired a Russian driver she found on the internet to pick the boy up at the airport and deliver him to the Russian Ministry of Education. The U.S. adoptive mother claims the boy is "psychopathic" and threatened to harm her family.

The incident has outraged Russia and its officials have called for a bilateral agreement with the United States on adoption.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry insists that further adoptions take place in the framework of a bilateral agreement with the United States. We are ready to work with the American side to conclude [the agreement]," said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement Monday.

"If our partners show the desire to accept this agreement, it will allow us to avoid freezing the practice of adoption by U.S. citizens. We see no other options of resolving the situation."

Besides Buckner International, several other U.S.-based Christian ministries that work with Russian orphans said they have not felt the effect of the current U.S.-Russia tension over adoption.

Slavic Gospel Association, which supports national church workers who minister in state-run orphanages, said its work with orphans has been normal. SGA is not involved in the adoption process but only ministers to Russian orphans.

"By us working with nationals in those countries that provide us with an opportunity to be sheltered from political changes," said Eric Mock, vice president of ministry operation at Slavic Gospel Association, on Monday. "We tried to position ourselves so that we are supporting those who will minister to these kids."

"We want to see as many of these children adopted, but the reality is the mass majority of these kids never get adopted," he said. "And those are the ones we are trying to get behind."

Mock said the majority of those who are not adopted end up in difficult environments – including crime, drugs and prostitution – when they leave the orphanage.

"The time to reach them is now," said Mock, who was in Russia and Ukraine in February.

Similarly, Texas-based Orphan Outreach, which has worked with orphans in Russia for over ten years, said it has not been affected by the current political tension. The group said it is not involved in adoption but focuses on humanitarian aid and evangelism in state-run orphanages.

Tiffany Taylor, director of marketing and development at Orphan Outreach, said Monday that the Russian government welcomes humanitarian aid but is "carefully watching" Christian organizations in the country.

In the past two years, there has been "tighter and tighter control of Christian organizations going into orphanages," Taylor noted.

Russia ranks third in terms of the largest source of foreign adoptions in the United States, behind mainland China and Ethiopia, according to the U.S. State Department.