Key Points:

Child, Youth and Family is unnecessarily discouraging people from adopting Russian children, according to frustrated New Zealanders who recently gave new lives to St Petersburg orphans.

But CYF says the decision to temporarily suspend the service for hopeful New Zealanders was because Russia had made adoptions more difficult and there were signs that the rate of successful outcomes was falling.

Beach Haven resident Sarah Morton said she represented dozens of couples who could no longer have children naturally.

She said CYF was letting them - and underprivileged Russian orphans - down because of its decision last year to stop undertaking "home studies".

Home studies are compulsory for people wanting to adopt overseas.

It includes checks on the character of the applicants and on the type of home the child will be offered. It refers to values relating to matters such as religion, culture, education and sport.

Last September CYF shelved new applications for such assessments.

It said the service was no longer warranted because legislation in Russia was about to change, forcing countries to set up an "accredited agency" within Russia.

New Zealand has no such agency, although Inter Country Adoption New Zealand (Icanz) is now trying to become accredited.

The agency's director, Wendy Hawke, said no bill was before Russia's Parliament to change the law but her agency was still seeking accreditation.

It would cost about $30,000 and she hoped approval would come before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a backlog of New Zealanders wanting a home study would put pressure on CYF resources once it lifted its suspension, Ms Hawke said.

CYF head Ray Smith said adoptions from Russia were not covered by the Hague Convention.

CYF had traditionally supported New Zealanders through the process but it no longer felt confident of maintaining the success rate of the past.

The Russians had become concerned about foreign adoptions, though Mr Smith said the area of concern did not relate to New Zealand.

He said one New Zealand couple had tried for two years to adopt a child in Russia, but on their third and final trip to the country they were told the child had been placed in the care of a Russian family by the court system.

Mr Smith offered no assurance that home studies would begin again if Icanz gained accreditation.

Mrs Morton said she met Social Development Associate Minister Ruth Dyson last week and asked why home studies could not be re-introduced.

"[Ms Dyson] said she believed the legislation had changed in Russia. We believe she is misinformed."

People were continuing to be successful in bringing adopted children back to New Zealand from Russia, Mrs Morton said.

That was because they had their home-study assessments completed before CYF began rejecting the service to new applicants.

"It shows that adoption can still be done," Mrs Morton said. "The only barrier to this is the fact home studies are not being carried out."

Mrs Morton said nothing had changed in Russia since last year.

CYF had simply put the issue in the "too hard basket" and the increasing pool of New Zealanders unable to conceive were being let down.

Chris and Deborah Colpman brought 4-year-old Vladik home in December. The adoption process took three trips to Russia and had cost about $60,000, but their efforts were nearly scuttled at the last minute.

Mr Colpman said CYF had not kept up with changes in Russia and its documents were out of date.

"They [CYF] were not willing to work through the process, and the onus was on them to make sure documentation was correct. We didn't put things in jeopardy, it was their documentation."


* New Zealanders adopted 262 overseas children in 2005.

* This compares with 314 adoptions of children from within New Zealand, 113 of which were non-relative adoptions.

* In the mid-1990s more than 400 overseas adoptions occurred annually.

* The cost of adopting a Russian child is generally $20,000, but the process can cost up to $60,000.

* The not-for-profit organisation Inter Country Adoption New Zealand (Icanz) helped with 45 Russian adoptions last year and a further 28 over the past seven months.

* Home studies are an essential part of the process but Child, Youth and Family has suspended these because of decreased confidence in successful adoptions from Russia.