Russia: Legislation Limiting Options

08/08/2005

Joint Council cautions against rash legislation limiting the options for Russian orphans but encourages strengthening and improving the intercountry adoption system.

Joint Council on International Children’s Services (Joint Council) is saddened by the recent reports of the January 2005 death of Dennis Merryman, an adoptive Russian child residing in Baltimore, Maryland. However, we strongly caution the Russian Duma against passing legislation eliminating intercountry adoptions or calling for a bilateral agreement, as proposed by Duma mber Yekaterina Lakhova and Federation Council committee member Valentina Petrenko.

This case has not yet been tried in the US court of law and we discourage a premature response that would impact thousands more children in need of permanent families.

According to news reports the child is alleged to have suffered from cystic fibrosis and digestive problem. The parents have been charged and the autopsy report listed starvation as the cause of death. Until all the facts are made public and the US legal system has reached a verdict the defendants, as in all cases, should be innocent until proven guilty. Joint Council does not know the specifics of the case or the health care issues confronted, but we recommend withholding judgment until the outcome has been determined. Although the death occurred in January 2005 the autopsy report was not released until late July which addresses some of the questions of why this case is only now being discussed by the US media and adoption community.

Joint Council supports the United States Judicial System in swiftly investigating this case but to further proactively address this tragedy and ensure that children are protected, Joint Council proposes the following:

1. Permanency for Children to Remain a Priority

2. Standards for Pre-Adoption Screening and Post-Adoption Reporting Be Strengthened

3. Creation of Research Study to Identify Solutions & Safeguards

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