MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko and Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov spoke at the lower chamber of parliament Wednesday, addressing child adoption, a very acute problem in Russia, given some 800,000 registered orphans and 1,115,000 homeless children detained by police last year.
Kolesnikov said foreign adoption agencies in Russia charged between $15,000 and $80,000, whereas part of the funds was paid to Russian officials. He said adoption mediators should be held accountable under the law and regretted an article on punishment for child trade had been deleted from the penal code and it was difficult to prove guilt under current legislation.
"There are a lot of mediators now, but there is no accountability for mediation," he told the Duma.
The official acknowledged there were no official statistics on adopted children in Russia, except for outrageous cases of child deaths. Kolesnikov said 15 Russian children, including 14 in the United States, had died in foreign foster families over the last decade.
He suggested foreigners wanting to adopt Russian children should undergo a psychiatric examination and independent adoption organizations be banned in Russia.
Fursenko backed the latter proposal, saying foreign residents must be allowed to adopt Russian children only through agencies accredited in Russia, but added adoption mediators should be able to get accreditation. He said the Education and Science Ministry had drafted a bill on the matter.
He also urged the reform of the adoption system whose inefficiency prevented the adoption of children by Russians. According to statistics presented by Kolesnikov, the number of adoptions by Russians had declined by 50% over the last 12 years, partly due to low living standards, whereas foreign adoptions have grown by 350%.
The minister said there were enough American adoption agencies working in Russia and their number should not be increased, "given humanitarian objectives facing us." However, he said imposing a moratorium on foreign adoptions, something the Communist faction had proposed earlier, would be illegal and unwise.
"We should remember how many children have found families and are living happily, including in the United States," the minister said.
Ratifying the Hague convention on the protection of children and cooperation in inter-country adoption will prompt advances in the sphere, Fursenko said, also acknowledging the feasibility of bilateral treaties. He suggested that bilateral treaties should be signed with each of the 52 states.
However, Duma member Yekaterinoa Lakhova said bilateral treaties with other countries were a better option, as the Hague convention stipulated simplified inter-country adoption procedures and did not allow authorities to track adopted children and intervene if they were in trouble.
She also urged privileged conditions for Russian adopters, the idea which is shared by Sergei Glazyev, head of the patriotic faction Homeland, who said current monthly allocations per orphan ($590) should be given to Russian foster families and demanded an additional 20 million rubles (about $694,000) be allocated from the Stabilization Fund annually for Russian adopters.