Originally Published: 4/23/2010 Latest comment: 4/23/2010 2:06:08 PM
Stalled overseas adoptions: Bernville woman knows firsthand
A Bernville woman's attempt to enlarge her family collides with strife in Kyrgyzstan and a botched arrangement in Tennessee.
By Dan Kelly
Ann Bates of Bernville writes a blog about her preparations for adopting a child from central Asia.
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Ann Bates and her fiance, Brian Achey, had hoped to give Brian's parents their first grandchild.
Then their hopes to adopt two children, a boy from Russia and a girl from Kyrgyzstan, were suddenly dashed.
Bates, a pediatric nurse who lives in Bernville, was on her way back to Moscow from an orphanage in the countryside on April 7 when she began receiving text messages from friends and family members reporting that an apparent coup d'etat was under way in Kyrgyzstan.
When she got back to the hotel she tried to contact friends in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek. Her friends live near the orphanage where her 3-year-old adoptive daughter-to-be is living.
"I was so worried about the children and about my friends in Bishkek," she said.
The next day, Ann was resting in her hotel and watching television for more news from Bishkek when the BBC broadcast in Moscow reported that an American woman, who had adopted a Russian boy, had put the boy back on a plane to Moscow unaccompanied.
The boy carried a note from the mother, Torry Hansen of Tennessee, saying a Russian adoption agency had lied to her and that the child she adopted was psychotic, had threatened her friends and family - and had even threatened to burn down her house.
"I sat there for a minute and the only thing I could think was, 'You have got to be kidding me,' " Bates said.
Bates said she couldn't believe that two international incidents had occurred in two days, both of which threatened to keep her from adopting children.
She started adoption proceedings in Russia last year after becoming disheartened by constant delays of her adoption efforts in Kyrgyzstan.
Chuck Johnson, acting chief executive officer of the National Council For Adoption in Alexandria, Va., said Bates' family is one of more than 60 that had been trying to adopt children from Kyrgyrzstan for about two years when the former government, acting on allegations of corruption, declared a moratorium on foreign adoptions.
In Russia, adoptions had been proceeding well until the Hansen incident, and probably still are being processed, Johnson said.
"The problem some families have experienced in Russia is a lack of uniformity in the courts," Johnson said. "One court may make requirements on a family, even though the law says differently, and the family has no choice but to comply."
When the 7-year-old Russian boy stepped off the United Airlines flight from suburban Washington, D.C., Russia's foreign minister declared a moratorium on U.S.-Russian adoptions. The problem, Johnson said, is that adoptions are controlled by the Russia's Ministry of Education and the foreign minister apparently didn't have clear authority to change policy.
The U.S. State Department asked if it could send a high-level delegation to Russia to resolve the matter quickly, so as not to delay adoptions already in the works.
"The delegation was on its way to Moscow when their flight was ordered to turn around because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland," Johnson said. "Their hope is to get to Europe as quickly as possible."
Meanwhile, the Renton, Wash.-based World Association of Children and Parents, which had arranged the adoption for Hansen, had suspended its work on U.S.-Russian adoptions.
Julie Snyder, a spokeswoman, said the organization had been asked to suspend further work in Russia while the case in Tennessee is fully investigated.
Her statement wasn't clear as to who asked for the suspension or whether it was voluntary on the agency's part.
"In unusual situations such as this, it is expected that authorities would suspend an agency until a full investigation can be completed," Snyder said.
The State Department and the Russian Ministry of Education have scheduled talks for Thursday and next Friday in Moscow.
In the meantime, the Russians have clarified their position that adoptions are still going forward, provided the U.S. continues to commit to a bilateral agreement on adoption.
Johnson of the National Council For Adoption said the U.S. is already party to the multilateral Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption. But the Russians did not adopt the Hague Convention and instead seek individual contracts with countries it allows to conduct adoptions.
The U.S., which previously had resisted bilateral adoption talks with the Russians, has agreed to seek an agreement because of the Hansen case, Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Bates said she hopes her Russian adoption will go forward, but she has lost hope that it will happen before June.
"They say kids lose three months of development for every year they are in an orphanage," Bates said. "I still have hope."
Contact Dan Kelly: 610-371-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.