CSPAN’s Washington Journal Features CCAI

Kathleen_CSPANOn Saturday, CSPAN’s Washington Journal interviewed CCAI Executive Director, Kathleen Strottman, about the Russian adoption ban, international adoption, and how Members of Congress can affect adoption and foster care issues. Click on the picture to watch the full interview or follow this link: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/310768-5

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,

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:

US Senate Responds to Russian Law Banning Adoption of Russian Children by American Families

Late last night, the United State Senate unanimously passed S. Res. 628, a resolution expressing the body’s disappointment over the recent passage of a Russian law banning the adoption of Russian children by American citizens.  This resolution, the most recent step in a long series of actions taken by Members of Congress, expresses the Senators’ deep concern with the law, which would deprive a significant number of Russia’s 740,000 institutionalized children their chance of finding a permanent, loving family.

“Given the immensity of the challenges facing the Russian government, one would think they would be taking every possible action to decrease the number of Russian children living without families,” said Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). “Sadly, it is the Russian children, many of whom have spent their entire childhood in institutions, who will suffer the most because of this law.”

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Senate Co-chairs, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), echoed Strottman’s sentiments.

“Whatever issues our two governments may be facing, there is no political reason to put vulnerable children in the middle of political posturing,” Landrieu said. “Children should be raised by parents, not in orphanages, institutions or alone on the street.”

“It is extremely unfortunate and disheartening that the Russian Duma and President Putin would choose to deprive the children, the very children that they are entrusted to care for, the ability to find a safe and caring family that every child deserves,” Inhofe said.  “As a grandparent of an internationally adopted child, I know that this new law is against the interests of the Russian people, in particular Russian children.  The law continues the disturbing anti-American trend that has been taking place in Russia for the past several years.  It is nothing more than a political play against the United States that ultimately leads to greater hardships and more suffering for Russian children who will now be denied a loving family.”

Since learning of the possible ban, CCAI has been deeply engaged in supporting this and other opposition efforts by Members of Congress.  Earlier this month, CCA Members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to President Putin urging him to veto the legislation. “We fear that this overly broad law would have dire consequences for Russian children,” they wrote. “Nothing is more important to the future of our world than doing our best to give as many children the chance to grow up in a family as we possibly can.”

Now that the ban has been enacted, CCAI continues to work with the State Department and Members of Congress to urge the Russian government to grant clemency for cases already in progress. In situations like these, CCAI’s priority is to ensure that US government officials  are not only aware of the personal circumstances of all American families directly impacted but also have the information necessary to effectively advocate on their behalf.  CCAI strongly encourages families that are affected to accommodate the State Department Office of Children’s Issues request for information regarding where they are in the adoption process. The State Department has requested that families email Russiaadoption@state.gov with the subject line: “Intercountry adoption in Russia – family update.”

Adoptions from Russia

In New Zealand, intercountry adoptions from Russia were suspended in 2006 due to changes in Russian legislation amid speculations regarding the well-being of children after their adoptions.  Just the beginning of this month, adoptions from Russia to New Zealand are resuming as a result of a permit granted.  This article reports how one family was just two months away from bringing home their child when adoptions were halted back in 2006.  Another family waited two years and made three trips to Russia in hopes of completing their adoption. These are similar to the frustrations now faced by American families who are currently waiting to adopt a Russian child.

Meanwhile, the needs of Russian orphans remain significant.  UNICEF estimates there are 4 million orphans in Russia who have lost one or both parents.  A New York Time article states, “The percentage of children who are designated orphans is four to five times higher in Russia than in Europe or the United States. Of those, 30 percent live in orphanages. Most of them are children who have been either given up by their parents or removed from dysfunctional homes by the authorities.”

Since June 2010, the U.S. State Department has continued to work with Russia to finalize a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption.  Russian officials traveled to Washington, DC last month to participate in a fifth round of talks regarding this agreement.  The U.S. Dept. of State’s website reports, “the talks were fruitful, and further progress was made.”  The focus of these talks include ways that both U.S. and Russian officials can ensure that adoptive parents are both better screened and prepared for the realities of parenting.

In addition to the U.S. and New Zealand adoption agreements, Russia began drafting agreements with France, Spain, Britain, Ireland, and Israel last year.

Returnable child?

13,231.  That is the number of Russian children who have found permanent, loving homes in America over the last five years.  One.  That is the number of adoptive parents who made the irresponsible, dare I say reprehensible, decision to return her adopted child to Russia.  800,000.  That is the estimated number of Russian children who currently call an orphanage their home.  As we talk about the circumstances leading up to the possible suspension of Russian-American adoptions, it is important to keep these numbers in their proper perspective.  No one can condone the actions taken by Torry Hansen.  Even if her allegations about her son’s mental condition are true, they do not justify her decision to forgo the plethora of options of assistance available for she and her son in the United States.  She could have reached out to her adoption agency, who could have directly provided her and her son the necessary support.  She could have reached out to the State of Tennessee Departments of Social Services or Mental Health.  And in a State that is well known for extensive faith based and community based networks there were undoubtedly people who if asked, would have stepped forward to help this family in need.  Sadly, she chose to take a different route and it is now in the hands of the Tennessee legal authorities to determine if her actions constitute a crime.

All that being said, two things we know for sure.  First, suspensions of adoption are not in the overall best interests of children.  Experience has shown that suspending adoptions do not lead to the legal and programmatic reforms which are used to justify them.  What they do result in is children spending additional, and unnecessary years, in institutional care.  Take Romania and Cambodia for examples.  It has been almost ten years since both countries suspended international adoption.  No significant legal reforms have been made and few, if any, efforts have been made to provide children living there with alternatives to institutionalization.  The legal and social status of children in both countries remain the same.  Both countries still experience high rates of child abandonment, child slavery and sexual exploitation.

The other thing we know for sure is that despite the appropriate use of best practices and protections, there will be cases such as these.  Not even the perfect system can protect against all wrongdoing.  What needs to exist is an international adoption system which provides for a high level of protection against corruption and abuse, and a federal and state statutes that allow for the prosecution of individuals who, despite these protections, abuse the adoption process or worse, an adopted child.  In ratifying the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, the US took an important first step in providing the U.S framework for such a system.  CCAI, along with Members of Congress, continue to push for improvements to the intercountry adoption system and for stronger and more explicit laws against corruption in international adoption.  We have and will continue to fully support the Russian Government in their efforts to continually protect the best interests of their children.  And finally, we remain committed to work with the U.S. State Department toward developing ways to quickly implement necessary protections.

In the meanwhile, as those who have experienced the many joys adoption brings, we have an obligation to speak out against the myths these types of cases can perpetuate.  Older children, even those who have spent years in foster care or institutions, are not by definition, damaged goods.  The bond between an adoptive parent and child is, in most every case, indistinguishable from the bond between a parent and their biological child.  And regardless of how the relationship between parent and child is formed, being a parent is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences a human being can have.

Be sure to check our website for resources as new information becomes available.