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Adoptions from Russia face a chill

Approvals for American parents have slowed by a third so far this year.

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Kerrie and Scott Farkas are looking forward to spending their lives with Dmitri, a blond, brown-eyed 2-year-old they've just spent two days with at an orphanage in Tambov, in central Russia.

They're optimistic despite a significant slowdown in international adoptions from Russia this year, due to an ugly and very public bureaucratic war that pits government liberals and child-care agencies against nationalist politicians who allege that children are being "trafficked" abroad. If the politicians' demands for change are met, they could severely curtail the ability of prospective foreign parents to adopt here.

Mr. Farkas says that for him and his wife, things are going well so far. "We have a good agency, and they have brought us through any potential problems," he says.

Foreign adoption has long been a sensitive issue in Russia, where the population has been shrinking for decades while the number of children without families has ballooned to an estimated 700,000. Last spring, the Russian media heavily covered the case of Irma Pavlis, a Chicago woman sentenced to 12 years in the abuse-related death of her adopted Russian son, Alex, in 2003. The daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that at least 13 Russian children have been "murdered" by US parents since foreign adoptions became possible in 1990.

In separate incidents this month, Moscow police seized adoptive children from two couples, one Italian and one American, after accusations of child abuse were phoned in. Both the US and Italian embassies issued strong statements casting doubt on the charges and warning of political manipulation.

"We heard about these incidents, and we find it inexplicable," says Scott Farkas, who will return to Lancaster, Pa., for a six- to eight-week wait to finalize his own adoption of Dmitri. "We can't understand how someone would go through this process and have that as the result."


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