Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday signed a new agreement [press release] with the US that tightens the rules for Americans adopting children from the Russian Federation. Specifically, a foreign family can adopt a Russian child only if there is no Russian family found for him or her. The deal also provides for more control of the child following the adoption. According to the office of Pavel Astakhov [official website], Russia's Children's Rights Commissioner, the need for the agreement became apparent [press release] after "a series of tragic episodes involving Russian children and their adoptive American families." "According to official data only," said Astakhov, "19 Russian children died at the hands of US citizens over the last 10 years." Although the deal was signed in Washington, DC in July 2011, the delay in ratification forced the Russian Foreign Ministry [official website] to suspend Russian adoptions by Americans until the stricter adoption requirements come into force.
Putin's approval of the adoption agreement comes not long after the Russian Duma [official website, in Russian] ratified the agreement [JURIST report] earlier this month. In February Russia's Foreign Ministry announced that it would ask the government to suspend adoptions by US citizens [USA Today report] after discovering that at least 17 children had died due to violence by their American families. In 2011 a Pennsylvania couple was sentenced [NYT report] to four years in prison after a jury found them negligent and responsible for the death of their adopted seven-year-old Russian son, though the Russian government criticized the ruling as too lenient. Also in 2011 an Alaskan woman was convicted [Huffington Post report] of child abuse after she poured hot sauce into the mouth of her adopted Russian son.