Background Briefing on the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Adoptions Agreement
OPERATOR: Welcome, and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of the call. If anyone would like to ask a question at this time, you may press *1. Today’s conference is being recorded. If anybody has any objections, you may disconnect at this time.
Now I’d like to introduce your host for the day. Ms. Heide Fulton, you may begin.
MS. FULTON: Hi, everybody. Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. As many of you know, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov just signed the agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation regarding cooperation in adoption of children. This agreement is designed to strengthen procedural safeguards for adoptions between our two countries.
Now, earlier today, the State Department released a fact sheet about this agreement, and we have posted a series of frequently asked questions to the consular website, and that is adoption.state.gov. But what we wanted to do was set up this call to have several subject matter experts who can talk to you about the agreement.
So with us today we have two Senior State Department Officials and two Senior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Officials. I’m going to go ahead and introduce them now so you have their names for the record, but I want to emphasize that this call is on background, and the attribution will be to Senior State Department Officials One or Two, respectively, and Senior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Officials One or Two, respectively.
So we have with us [Senior State Department Official One], who will – I will turn it over to him momentarily and he’ll give some remarks, and then we’ll go on to questions. But joining him from the State side, we have [Senior State Department Official Two]. And then from the Citizenship and Immigration Services, we have [Senior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Official One], and [Senior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Official Two].
So I would like to turn it over to [Senior State Department Official One] to make an opening statement, and then we will move on to – into questions. But again, just to emphasize, this call, all the attribution will be on background to Senior Department Officials, respectively. Okay?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Thank you, and good afternoon, welcome. Today, we’re very delighted to have signed the agreement on adoptions with Russia. This agreement is a very significant step to further ensure that children are given what every child needs and deserves, and that’s loving parents and a strong and stable home. The agreement just signed minutes ago by Secretary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, it provides additional safeguards to protect the welfare and interests of children and – children especially, and all other parties involved in inter-country adoptions.
I think with that we’re --
MS. FULTON: Okay. With that, operator, I think we’re ready to go ahead and take some questions please.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. If anyone would like to ask a question at this time, please press *1. You will be prompted to record your name; your name and your media affiliation is required. Once again, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *1. One moment please for our first question.
Our first question is from David Crary of Associated Press. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. I’m wondering – I guess for the State Department folks – if there is either a hope or an expectation that this agreement might lead to an increase in the numbers of adoptions from Russia back toward what it was five or six years ago? Or is it too soon to tell how this might affect the numbers?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We really don’t have any projection as far as how it might affect the numbers of adoptions, whether it would lead to an increase or not. Just don’t have any projections.
MS. FULTON: Okay. Next question.
OPERATOR: We have no other questions at this time. If anyone would like to ask a question, please press *1. We have no questions, ma’am.
MS. FULTON: Okay.
OPERATOR: We do have one. Sorry. (Laughter.) Our next question is from Shaun Tandon of AFP. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks. Sorry. I thought I would just jump in. I haven’t followed this as closely as you know – as you probably know, things about it that I don’t – but I just wanted to see – last year we had the suspension by the Russians on the adoptions – just what the current status of this is? I mean, how does this agreement affect them?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, that’s actually a common misperception. There has been no suspension or moratorium, as I think the word that’s been out there in the press on occasion, since we started negotiating a year ago April. In fact, adoptions from Russia have continued to take place all throughout the months of the negotiations, and they continue to take place today. And they will continue to take place until the – this agreement is actually implemented, because it will take some months to actually be implemented. The Russians have to pass some legislation to implement it, and then there has to be some details worked out as far as how it’ll be implemented --
QUESTION: Thanks. Thanks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- both sides.
MS. FULTON: Okay. Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Our next question is from David Crary of Associated Press. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m curious what feedback you folks have been getting, as the signing became imminent, from U.S. adoption agencies that happen or would like to be involved in Russia. Are the large majority of them enthusiastic about this treaty? Are there some that are expressing some concerns that the new protocols and requirements will be a problem for them?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, they’re actually – since the text of the agreement is just now going to be published, I don’t think – the adoption service providers haven’t had all of the details with which to express whether they are concerned or not. The feedback we have had, I think, is that everyone in the adoption service – in the adoption community, the adoption service providers and other stakeholders are very eager to have the agreement signed because they want to make sure that adoptions from Russia continue. I’m sure there’ll be some aspects of the agreement that they will have some questions about, and we will be engaging them – well, actually we’ll have a call with stakeholders tomorrow to talk to them about some of the details of the agreement and to see what questions they do have.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS. FULTON: Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah. I gather that there were some sort of legal concerns, and I’m not an expert on this area in terms of once a child is in the U.S. and becomes a U.S. citizen with U.S. citizen parents. I gather there were initial legal concerns – how can the U.S. Government give a foreign government sort of monitoring oversight rights over those U.S. families in sort of constitutional terms? And it seems like this treaty, on the face of it, has done a pretty good job of finding a solution to that. I’m wondering if you can just fill me in about how complicated that was to deal with those constitutional questions and whether there are any sort of question marks that will go on out? Will any of this be subject to foreseeable litigation saying we can’t allow the Russian Government those kinds of rights?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it wouldn’t – they were difficult negotiations, and we did have to keep emphasizing to the Russians our limitations on what we could require of parents or adoption service providers.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But again – this is State Department – the Russian Government doesn’t have any direct role in monitoring the families and monitoring the children here in the United States. That will continue to be as it is, which is through the adoption service providers. The Russian Government can and likely will – we expect them to impose additional requirements on the adoption service providers to do some more detailed monitoring, and additional requirements on parents to do additional reporting. But that’s not going to be done through any direct monitoring by the U.S. Government into the family situation up here in the United States.
And just in general, we were very careful in negotiating the agreement to ensure that we – that all of the requirements were consistent with U.S. domestic law. It was – one of the reasons why the talks took as long as they did – although in terms of negotiating an international agreement, it wasn’t actually all that long – but just to explain to the Russian Government what our limitations are – the fact that, once the child is here, they are a U.S. citizen; that we, as the U.S. Government and, certainly, the Russian Government doesn’t have any right to go into a family’s home in the United –
QUESTION: Right. Whereas they can attach some new conditions to the licensing agreements that the Russians have directly with the providers.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That’s exactly right.
QUESTION: Right. Right. Okay, that’s very helpful. Thank you.
MS. FULTON: Okay, thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: We have no other questions at this time.
MS. FULTON: Okay. Well, if that’s the case, I’d like to thank everyone for joining us, and just a reminder that the attribution for the responses given today would be on background. We thank you, we thank our senior officials for their time. Just hold on one second. If you would bear with us just one moment please.
Okay, we do have one final thought we’d like to leave with you. I’m going to turn it over to one of our Senior U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Officials.
SENIOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. This is from USCIS, and I just wanted to emphasize that it will take some time for the agreement to actually go into effect and to be implemented. And at the time that it is implemented, we will be providing a significant amount more information, in terms of details of how it will be implemented on our websites, both USCIS and DOS, and, of course, reaching out to the stakeholders.
And as the State Department mentioned earlier, we will be having a call with the stakeholders tomorrow to provide a bit more information about this agreement. So we encourage you to look at the information that has just been posted. There have already been some articles that have come out that are pretty good and pretty informative, but still some misperceptions, and so we do encourage you to look at those. And, of course, if you have any specific questions after the call, feel free to reach out to Department of State, USCIS to respond to those; we’d be happy to talk to you.
MS. FULTON: Okay. With that, thank you, everyone, for joining us today. We appreciate your time.
OPERATOR: Thank you for participating in today’s conference; you may disconnect at this time.