US, Russia approve adoption safeguards

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The United States and Russia agreed Wednesday to strengthen safeguards on adoptions, hoping to remove a key irritant in relations as the two powers look to improve cooperation.

On a visit to Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took up a range of issues from Libya to Syria to missile defense. In a rare step for a non-head of state, Lavrov met at the White House with President Barack Obama.

Lavrov signed an accord with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on adoption. Many Russians were outraged last year when a Tennessee woman returned her seven-year-old adopted son on a flight alone back to Russia with a note saying he was violent and she could not care for him.

"We take very seriously the safety and security of children that are adopted by American parents and this agreement provides new, important safeguards to protect them. It also increases transparency for all," Clinton told reporters.

Under the accord, only agencies approved by Moscow would be able to arrange adoptions in Russia, officially ending the role of independent services. The only exception would be for children adopted by biological relatives.

The agreement also calls for Russia to provide more information on children's social and medical histories and for monitoring and reporting on US parents after they adopt children.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the monitoring would be conducted by adoption providers and that Washington made clear to Moscow that no government officials would be allowed into homes for checks.

The United States has the world's most adoptive parents and Russia has long been one of the biggest sources of children, with only China and Ethiopia providing more children last year.

But the number of children adopted from Russia to the United States has declined to 1,079 last year from a peak of 5,862 in 2004 amid growing unease in Moscow, according to official figures.

© 2011 AFP

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