Update on Russian Ban on Intercountry Adoptions to the United States



Following the January 22, 2013 Russian Supreme Court Letter on Implementation of Federal Law No. 272-FZ, CCAI has continued to work closely with Members of Congress and our partners inside Russia.  In situations like these, CCAI’s priority is to ensure that the U.S. government is aware of all individuals directly impacted and have the information necessary to act on their behalf.  The following are actions that have occurred since our last update:

House Resolution 24: Expressing the deep disappointment of the House of Representatives in the enactment by the Russia Government of a law ending inter-country adoptions of Russian children by United States citizens…

  • Introduced on January 14, 2013 by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chairs Representatives Michele Bachmann and Karen Bass.
  • House Resolution 24 language matches that of Senate Resolution 628 (introduced in the 112th Congress on Dec. 30, 2012).

January 17, 2013 House Letter to President Putin  

  • Led by Representatives Chris Smith and Michael Fitzpatrick, 46 U.S. Representatives signed a letter to President Putin appealing to him for humanitarian reasons to not apply the January 1, 2013 ban of adoptions of Russian children to the United States to those several hundred adoptions already in process when the ban was enacted.
  • Noted that many of the children who are impacted by the ban on adoptions already know their U.S. adoptive families and have even recently been visited by them.
  • Encouraged President Putin to work together with the U.S. to “ensure that children are moved from institutions to family care.”

January 18, 2013 Bicameral Letter to President Putin

  • Led by Senator Blunt and CCA Co-Chairs Senators Landrieu and Inhofe and Representatives Bachmann and Bass, 72 Members of Congress signed this letter to President Putin requesting that the Russian Federation allow the processing of the pending adoptions of children already matched in 2012 to U.S. families.
  • Noted that many of these children have special needs, and “many believed they were soon going to become a part of a safe, permanent and loving family.”
  • Appealed to the spirit of the bilateral adoption agreement the two countries entered into on November 1, 2012 to provide orphaned children with safe and loving homes.

January 18, 2013 Bicameral Letter to President Obama

  • Led by Senator Blunt and CCA Co-Chairs Senators Landrieu and Inhofe and Representatives Bachmann and Bass, 73 Members of Congress signed this letter to President Obama.
  • Noted that Russia’s Ministry of Science and Education estimates over 110,000 children in Russia are living in institutions, with only 7,400 adopted by Russian families annually.
  • Appealed to President Obama to work to reverse the ban, but also to prioritize in the United States’ discussions with Russia in the coming weeks the estimated 350-500 active adoption cases with Russian children.

January 14, 2013 Russian Response Letter to December 21, 2012 Congressional Letter to President Putin

  • On January 14, Ambassador-at-Large Konstantin Dolgov – Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law – responded to a December 21, 2012 letter from 16 Members of Congress in an immediate response to the news of what was then a potential ban of adoptions from Russia to the United States.
  • Ambassador Dolgov’s letter stated that “[a]ccusations that Russia has violated the [U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child] by adopting the Dima Yakovlev Law are absolutely ungrounded” and are instead aimed at prioritizing domestic adoptions in Russia.  Suggesting that abuse of Russian children by American families has regularly occurred recently, and “the openly inactive attitude of competent U.S. agencies towards these issues has provoked a particular indignation and incomprehension in the public opinion, political and parliamentary circles in Russia.”  In response to appeals to the November 1, 2012 bilateral adoption agreement between the two countries, the letter states, “in practice we see that the U.S. side is actually sabotaging the provisions of the document.”  “The decision taken by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to ban the adoption of Russian children to the U.S. was a difficult but necessary measure provoked by a consistently non-constructive position of the U.S. federal and local authorities.”

For more information, please visit CCAI’s Russia Page on our website, see the “Russia Bans Adoptions to the United States” section of our January 15, 2013 Legislative Update,

U.S. State Department Releases FY 2012 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions

As required by the Intercountry Adoption Act, passed by Congress in 2000, the U.S. State Department recently sent its FY 2012 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption to the Hill. According to the report, the total number of intercountry adoptions to the US in 2012 has dropped to 8,668, as compared to 9,320 in FY 2011. This decline, which has been a trend in recent years, is the result of several factors.

First, countries that have been longtime partners with the United States in international adoption have experienced significant reductions in the number of children adopted by United States Citizens.  For instance, in 2005, 14,493 Chinese children were adopted by US families as opposed to 2,697 adoptions in 2012.  Similarly, in 2004 Russian adoptions peaked at 9,425, compared to 748 last year and Korea dropped from 2,287 US adoptions in 2003 to 627 in 2012.

Secondly, several countries, that at one point had significant numbers of children being placed with families in the United States, have closed their international adoption programs altogether. In 2007, the year that the Guatemalan Congress passed its international adoption reform legislation, there were 4,844 adoptions of Guatemalan children by US families and in the same year, Vietnam, which has also since suspended adoptions, placed 1,692 of their children with families the United States.  Cambodia, which has been closed to international adoption since 2001, was at the time one of the top ten countries, with 800 children a year being adopted by US families.

In either case, the declines are attributable to one of two things, or a combination thereof.  First, countries such as Korea, China, and Russia have made sincere efforts to increase the number of children adopted domestically in their respective countries.  There is also some evidence to suggest that the number of children being abandoned in these countries has declined. Secondly, there has been a tremendous amount of pressure put on developing countries to shut down their international programs to prevent or guard against fraudulent or corruptive practices in the adoption process.

There are some other trends that are worth noting. Four out of five of 5 of Hague compliant countries that facilitated the most adoptions, reported having average processing times of over a year, with India reporting 606 days being needed to complete a case.  Given the importance of a strong and reliable connection to a family for a child of any age, it is worth looking at if there are ways to appropriately shorten these timeframes.

And there is a bit of good news.  According to the US State Department, 99 US born children had their dream of a family fulfilled by a family outside of the United States, an increase from last year (73).  The report notes that the majority of these families are in Ireland, Netherlands and Canada.  What this shows is that the United States is committed to looking anywhere in the world to find a safe and loving home for its children.

So what does all this mean?  First off, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as an “ideal” number of international adoptions.  While international adoption is an important tool for countries to use in reducing the number of children living outside of family care, it is not always the best or most appropriate option for every child.  That being said, there is an ideal number of children living outside the care and protection of a family; ZERO.

CCAI hopes that the recently released report and others like it will serve as evidence of the need for the US government to take the lead in the effort to reduce the number of children living outside of family care and will continue to support the efforts of federal policy makers to move us in this direction.


FY 2012 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption

The five countries that facilitated the most intercountry adoptions into the U.S. in FY 2012:

Country FY 2012 (# of incoming cases) FY 2011 (# of incoming cases)
China 2,697 (31% of all intercountry adoptions) 2,589
Ethiopia 1,568 (18%) 1,727
Russia 748 (9%) 970
Korea 627 (7%) 736
Ukraine 395 (4.5%) 632

The 5 Countries that comply with the Hague convention that facilitated the most adoptions, average number of days to completion, and median adoption fees per country in FY 2012:

Country FY 2012 (incoming cases) Average days to completion Median adoption fees
China 2,309 267 $15,600
Columbia 180 403 $18,300
India 153 606 $14,600
Bulgaria 121 388 $13,140
Philippines 118 400 $8,500

The Total number of outgoing intercountry adoptions from the U.S. in FY 2012:

FY 2012 FY 2011
99 cases 73 cases

The three countries with the highest number of intercountry adoptions from the U.S. in FY 2012:

Country FY 2012 (# of outgoing cases) FY 2011 (# of outgoing cases)
Canada 41 31
Netherlands 28 27
Ireland 14 5



CCAI Legislative and Policy Update – January 2013

In this Update:

  • Adoption Tax Credit Extended in Tax Payer Relief Act
  • Russia Bans Adoptions to the United States
  • Universal Accreditation for Intercountry Adoptions in the U.S.
  • Uninterrupted Scholars Act Allows Access to Foster Youth School Records
  • U.S. Government Launches Action Plan on Children in Adversity
  • Supreme Court of the United States to Hear Indian Child Welfare Act Case on Adoption of Indian Child


Adoption Tax Credit Extended in Tax Payer Relief Act

The adoption tax credit, which can be claimed for eligible adoption-related expenses, has helped thousands of American families offset the high cost of adoption since the credit was established in 1997.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act permanently extends the adoption tax credit and income exclusion for employer paid or reimbursed adoption expenses up to $10,000 (adjusted for inflation).

  • Official estimates will be released later by the IRS, but the projected maximum amount of the adoption credit for 2013 is expected to be $12,770. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made the adoption tax credit refundable for FY 2011 and 2012, the credit included in this latest extension is not refundable.

For a copy of the bill see the Text of the Bill from Senate Finance Committee website (the third PDF from the link provides a summary that lists the provisions in the bill).

To learn more about the adoption tax credit, its history and application please see:


News Articles:

Russia Bans Adoptions to the United States

On December 28, 2012, President Putin signed Federal Law 18661406, known as the Yakovlev Act, prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families effective on January 1, 2013.

  • Law is named after Dima Yakovlev, adopted as Chase Harrison, who died after being left by his U.S. adoptive father in a hot car in 2007.
  • Lawmakers in the Russian Duma have stated that the legislation is a direct response to the U.S. “Magnitsky Act” which is designed to address human rights violations by sanctioning a specific group of Russian officials connected to the death of a whistleblowing lawyer in a Moscow prison.
  • Passage of this law has entirely halted the adoptions of an estimated 500 to 1000 children to U.S. families who were at various stages in the adoption process when the law was passed.
  • State Department reports that they are aware of 565 pending adoptions: 57 cases where the adoptive family has already obtained an adoption decree from a Russian court, 234 cases where a waiting child has been officially matched with an American family, and 274 cases where State is currently unaware whether the family was officially matched with a child.
  • Department of State is working with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to create a comprehensive list of these and any additional U.S. families that may have approved suitability applications to understand the full universe of transition cases that will be impacted by the ban.

Several actions have been taken by Members of Congress in response to this crisis.

  • First, on December 21, 2012, Senators sent a letter to Putin asking for him to not sign the bill into law.
  • Shortly thereafter, the United States Senate passed S. Res. 628 and the House is expected to introduce a similar measure shortly.
  • Members have discussed taking other actions including sending a bicameral letter to President Obama, as well as asking the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. to come to Congress and brief both the House and Senate on his country’s intentions to process outstanding adoption cases.

Russia’s decision to abruptly end adoptions by the U.S. families is tragic for two reasons. First, that Russia would see fit to use their own children as political pawns, and second, that their actions did not evoke moral outrage by members of the global community.   Until a child’s right to a family is properly recognized as a basic human right, such violations can continue without serious consequences for anyone other than the children themselves.


  • CCAI Country Overview on Russian Adoptions–View an overview on adoptions in Russia, links to the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues’ Russia Alerts and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow’s recent statements, as well as a recent congressional letter to President Putin and other helpful resources.

News Articles:

Universal Accreditation for Intercountry Adoptions in the U.S.

In 2000, The Intercountry Adoption Act required that adoption agencies assisting with an international adoption be accredited.  Where the IAA fell short is that it only applied to adoptions between countries that are both parties to the Hague Convention, meaning that if an adoption is between the U.S. and a non-Hague country such as Russia or Ethiopia, the agency performing the adoption does not have to be accredited and the family involved is left without the corresponding services and protections.

  • The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 eliminates the “dual track” system, as explained in CCAI’s What Barriers Remain Report and extends the terms of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 to all adoption service providers offering or providing adoption services regardless of whether the child’s country of origin is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.
  • The Senate version of the bill (S.3331) was passed by the House on January 1, 2013 and sent to the President for signature.


News Articles:

Uninterrupted Scholars Act Allows Access to Foster Youth School Records

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act amended the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). When FERPA was written in 1974, lawmakers’ intended to protect parents’ control over their children’s student records. However, because of FERPA, social workers had to obtain a court order to access the school records of a youth in foster care. This meant that youth in care, many of whom have multiple foster care placements, which resulted in school transfers, often had to retake classes or repeat grades because the child welfare agencies and schools could not effectively and efficiently communicate about an individual’s academic records. The Uninterrupted Scholars Act provides social workers access to school records in an effort to ease transitions and improve educational outcomes for foster youth.


News Articles:

Action Plan on Children in Adversity

U.S. Government Launches Action Plan on Children in Adversity

The Action Plan is the first-ever whole-of-government strategic guidance on international assistance for children in adversity. The Plan provides a blueprint for the appropriate USG agencies to use in delivering coordinated and effective assistance to children who are vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect and is governed by three core objectives:

  • Build strong beginnings:  The U.S. Government will help ensure that children under five not only survive, but also thrive by supporting comprehensive programs that promote sound development of children through the integration of health, nutrition, and family support.
  • Put family care first: U.S. Government assistance will support and enable families to care for their children, prevent unnecessary family-child separation, and promote appropriate, protective and permanent family care.
  • Protect children: The U.S. Government will facilitate the efforts of national governments and partners to prevent, respond to, and protect children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

Within five years, the Plan calls for USG funded programs to achieve significant reductions in the number of children not meeting age-appropriate growth and developmental milestones; children living outside of family care; and children who experience violence or exploitation.


News Articles:

Supreme Court of the United States to Hear Indian Child Welfare Act Case on Adoption of Indian Child

On January 4, 2012 the Supreme Court agreed to address a 1978 federal law underlying the adoption of American Indian children.  The last time the Court reviewed a case regarding the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was 24 years ago in the 1989 Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield.  Since that time, state supreme courts have been split in their decisions regarding the placements of Native American children impacted by the law.  The Court has agreed to hear the case of “Baby Veronica” who was adopted by a couple in South Carolina and later removed from her adoptive placement and placed with her biological father, a member of the Cherokee tribe living in Oklahoma.


News Articles:

U.S. Government Releases Action Plan on Children in Adversity

Action Plan on Children in Adversity

Business giant, Lee Iacocca once said, “The only rock that stays steady, the only institution that works is the family.”   This simple, yet profound, principle is one that has not only withstood the test of time but is also the foundation basis of emerging brain science.

Here is what we know: We know that strong families are the building blocks of strong communities and strong communities are the building blocks of strong nations.  Thanks to leaders like Dr. Jack Shonkoff, we know that relationships with other human beings are not a luxury for children, but an absolute necessity.  But you do not need to be a Nobel Prize-winning economist or a world-renowned neurologist at Harvard to be able to recognize that children do best when raised by loving and protective parent.   For many of us, we need only to reflect on our own life experience to understand the impact that a loving embrace or encouraging words have in times of stress.

Despite these certainties, millions of children in the world are growing up without the care of a protective, permanent family.  These children live in institutions or on the streets; they have been torn from their families because of war or disaster; or they have been bought and sold for sex or labor.  And worst yet, the number of children who suffer such fates is rising.  For this to change, governments of the world need to not only recognize that children have a basic human right to a family; they must also establish and enforce laws and systems to protect this right.  It is for this reason that the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is proud to support the U.S. Government’s Action Plan on Children in Adversity.

Under its tenets, the millions of children outside of family care will have the opportunity to benefit from programs that prevent children from being separated from their families and quickly reunify them when separation proves inevitable. The Plan also makes the commitment to pursue adoption, foster care, kinship and guardianship for children whose biological families are unable or unwilling to care for them.  This is a major step forward and holds promise not only for the futures of children, but the future of nations.

Small Hands Change the World

Kenya, August 2012

In August, CCAI’s Director of Policy, Becky Weichhand, traveled to Kenya to continue to build on the work of The Way Forward Project. She spoke at the East African Orphan Summit in Nairobi, visited local orphanages, schools and development non-profits, and met with staff at both the Kenya and Regional offices of UNICEF and the PEPFAR programming staff at USAID to learn about their work in Kenya and the region as it relates to orphans and vulnerable children and to discuss efforts to continue to make family-based care for children not only a best-practice but a reality for children in the region.

The following is a short photo essay of this trip.

Neighborhood children in front of a home in Soweto, the largest slum in the capitol city of Nairobi.
Children in their school uniforms at a school run by a church in Soweto await the opportunity to greet their guests at the end of the school day.
A toddler looks out the window into the yard at the orphanage in which he lives.
Children in this orphanage enjoy play time with orphanage staff and volunteers.
Becky holds a little girl who lives in the orphanage while the child sitting alongside her holds a toddler who also lives there.
Becky visits the top of the Kenyatta International Conference Center overlooking Kenya’s Parliament building with her friend Winnie. Winnie serves on the board of the Kenya Network of Care Leavers. The Kenya Society of Care Leavers is a grassroots youth empowerment movement that promotes the well-being of those who have spent time in institutions in Kenya by creating support groups for young people who have left orphanages in Kenya as well as educates children and youth still in orphanages about their rights.
Jeromy Smith (far left), a U.S. citizen and adoptive parent of Kenyan children was a tremendous support to the East African Orphan Summit leadership and its emphasis on empowering local government and church leadership to promote in-country, family-based care for children in the region. Here he is pictured with the director of Rwanda’s PEACE Plan Initiative as well as two Kenyan attorneys who spoke to the East African Orphan Summit audience about the process and timeline for domestic Kenyan adoptions.
A sign on display at the Nairobi Giraffe Center reminds us that our work impacts generations and that as we work to promote family care so that children in the U.S., Kenya and around the world can thrive, they in turn can change the world.

CCAI Angels in Adoption featured in Adoption Today magazine!

La Familia de Matthews

By Melanie Matthews

The  article was originally published in the September 2012 Issue of Adoption Today. Melanie and Jim Matthews are two of CCAI’s 2012 Angels in Adoption

 The Call:

“We have four kids for you, and we need to know tonight if you are interested, so please let us know in the next hour.” This is it! Our jaws are dropped, there are hugs, kisses and tears. We don’t know if we should stand, sit or call everyone we know. We are staring at each other, hearts racing, hands trembling. We are speechless, and there are no words. Within five minutes, we find our voice, one word, we call our agency back, “Yes!” our word is yes. Praise to God, yes!

Our Prayer:

We were married in December 2000, and that is when our adoption journey started. While discussing our future family, adoption was always a part of our vocabulary. We always knew we wanted a large family and felt in our hearts that all of our children would be adopted. In 2006, we started our paperwork for the adoption process. We were initially approved for one infant, and waited for our referral from Colombia. We were put on a wait list, so we waited, patiently, for years.

Our time was filled with work and hobbies. Running marathons, starting a photography business, finishing nursing school, running the youth ministry at the church, and learning Spanish occupied our wait time. As our wait time was being increased every year, we started talking again about the large family we had wanted. We started asking each other why we are on a wait list for one child, when there are groups of children who need a home? We started praying about a sibling group, praying if that is what was in store for us. We prayed that God would keep them safe, warm and loved. In November 2009, we started updating our paperwork, sure that this is what God had been planning for us. Our call was received in July 2010. It would be only three more months until we met our children!

November 2:

November 2 is our family’s “special day,” as we like to call it. This is the day we met our children for the first time. We met in a room with the social worker, lawyer and translator. We couldn’t concentrate, we could hear our kids in the other room during our meeting, laughing and playing. They were just one room away. Our tears of joy were flowing before we even saw them! That day we met our children 8-year-old Derly, 6-year-old Estefania, 5-year-old Jesus and 2-year-old Prospero. Our next four weeks were spent in Colombia, bonding and connecting as a new family, we could not wait to bring them to their new home.


Bringing the kids home and watching them experience new things was such a joy. Moving from Colombia to Minnesota was a culture change. Experiencing cold on their faces, and playing in the snow was new and amazing to them. Every day is an adventure in itself. Elevators, escalators, eating at McDonalds and swimming were all new to them. Just learning a new language from both sides has been a great and sometimes funny way of getting to know each other. Favorite colors, foods and stories, all the wonderful small details we get to learn from each other. We have had a fantastic year, with so much support from our family and friends. This is God’s plan and design for all of our lives.

One more:

In February 2011, just three months after being home, something did not feel right. I was looking at our family while cooking dinner. I said to my husband, “We are not all here, we are missing something.” After a night of prayer, we were felt led to write a letter to our agency which stated: “If our children have any more siblings, we would like to adopt them as well. We strongly believe in keeping siblings together.”

Only a month after sending this letter, we received a call from our agency. “Your children have an older brother and Colombia is requesting you consider adopting him.” Meet Jhon, age 10. Our call back “Yes, of course, yes.” In June, we traveled to Colombia to meet Jhon for the first time and reunite him with his siblings.

God’s Plan:

God works in mysterious ways. Our family started 10 years ago when we began thinking of adoption. At the time we changed our paperwork from a single child to a sibling group, all of our children had been born and were placed in the adoption agency, waiting, for us to bring them home.

If you are thinking of adoption and have any questions you can connect with us through our blog at www.matthewsadoption.blogspot.com.

Melanie Matthews has been married to her husband, Jim, for 11 years. The couple has been blessed with five children, 11-year-old Jhon, 9-year-old Derly, 7-year-old Estefania, 5-year-old Jesus and 2-year-old Prospero. The couple lives in Minnesota and Jim is a youth pastor and Melanie is a registered nurse. Melanie also enjoys photography on the side. Jim and Melanie always knew they wanted to adopt from the beginning of their marriage. Two trips to Colombia later, their journey to their children and becoming a forever family are complete. To read more about their journey, visit www.matthewsadoption.blogspot.com.