Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Death of Russian-Born Boy in US Reignites Adoption Debate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Death of Russian-Born Boy in US Reignites Adoption Debate

Article excerpt

A 9-year-old Russian boy adopted by US parents died in a house fire last week, reminding Russians of several incidents of poor treatment of Russian orphans adopted by Americans.

The tragic death of a 9-year old Russian-born boy, who was apparently alone in the Nebraska home of his adoptive American parents when it burned down last week, has triggered a renewed outpouring of media outrage in Russia and amplified calls for a ban on foreign adoptions.

It's an unpleasant diplomatic scandal that has recurred many times in recent years, even as the two countries have moved toward mutually agreeable rules for US-Russian adoptions, and Russia has vastly improved conditions over recent years for its own citizens who want to adopt one of the country's 130,000 institutionalized orphans or take in a foster child.

Anton Fomin was brought to the US by his Russian biological parents but was adopted by an American couple in 2008 after his father died and his mother was unable to care for him. He may have been locked in the basement, and was alone in the Davey, Nebraska house when it burned down on May 17.

The news prompted the Kremlin's ombudsman for children, Pavel Astakhov, to Tweet on May 21 that this is "yet another" example of a Russian child dying at the hands of possibly negligent or abusive American adoptive parents.

"This death raises many questions," Mr. Astakhov wrote on his blog, according to Russian media. "Either the boy was being punished [and for that reason was stuck in the basement during the fire] or he was neglected and got into the basement accidentally. Why the boy was locked in the basement and why he could not get out is something we will ask the US attorneys."

The US Embassy in Moscow was quick to point out in a statement that, since Anton was adopted in the US, this is not a case of international adoption. "The Department of State has no official role in this case," it said, adding that it is ready to "provide Russian officials with all available information and help them liaise with the Nebraska authorities."

Advocates: Russia needs to clean up at home first

Adoptions of Russian children by American families have steadily decreased, from almost 4,000 in 2005 to 1,079 in 2010. The number of institutionalized Russian orphans has declined sharply since then- President Vladimir Putin ordered measures taken to boost adoptions and fund foster families in 2006.

Boris Altschuler, head of the independent Center for Children's Rights in Moscow, says conditions have improved markedly since then, although the lack of professional support services for foster families has led to many children being returned to institutions.

"Our system of adoption is still very ineffective, and it needs a lot of improvements," he says. "We still have over 100,000 children who need homes. …

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