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U.S. Families Hope For Miracle As Russia Bans Adoptions

Children play in their bedroom at an orphanage in the southern Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu.
Children play in their bedroom at an orphanage in the southern Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu.

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Putin Signs Bill Banning U.S. Adoptions

President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill banning adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

Photogallery In Magnitsky Tit For Tat, Russia's Orphans Become Political Poker Chips

Russia's State Duma has passed in a final reading new legislation that bans Americans from adopting Russian children. Child-welfare advocates say the move will deprive thousands of needy children from ever finding a family.

Video Russia's Orphans 'Have Their Motherland'

Russian orphans trained to be slaves in Western lands.... Wait, we've heard this somewhere else. Oh yes, isn't that the plot of the Soviet blockbuster "They Have Their Motherland"?
By Richard Solash
Jan Wondra says she saw her adoptive daughter, and loved her, before she knew her.

"I kept having a dream that kept waking me up at night," she says. "There was always a little girl running toward me calling for Mama. [She had] a sad little face, her arms were outstretched, and she always disappeared in the dream before she reached my arms.

"When we started the adoption process, they put a big book in my lap of waiting children all over the world. I randomly opened that book and looked at the page and I saw the face of the little girl in my dream. I almost fell off my chair."

The face that Wondra recognized was Yelena Lomonova's. The child had been born with congenital hip defects and given up at birth by her unwed mother. In 1994, Wondra traveled to Russia's Pskov region to pick up her daughter. The girl, she says, came to her with open arms, just like in the dream. Yelena is now Katie, who, after two hip surgeries, is a thriving college senior in Colorado.

But for hundreds of U.S. families in the process of their own Russian adoptions, dreams are quickly becoming nightmares. A Russian ban on adoptions by U.S. citizens that was fast-tracked through parliament amid overwhelming support from lawmakers was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 28 and will go into effect on January 1.

The Wondra family in Moscow in 1994 after their adoptionThe Wondra family in Moscow in 1994 after their adoption
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The Wondra family in Moscow in 1994 after their adoption
The Wondra family in Moscow in 1994 after their adoption
Wondra is now the acting chair of Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA), a volunteer organization that provides support to adoptive families. In recent weeks, that support has been needed more than ever, she says, as families scramble to find information about the ban, sign petitions in protest, and come together to keep hope alive.

Seeking Answers

While there is no official registry, advocates estimate that between 500 and 1,000 families are currently in the process of adopting from Russia.

"Both my wife and I were absolutely crushed by this," says Matthew Boyle, an electrical engineer from Maine who, along with his wife, is among those would-be parents. "We went through a long infertility process, we went through a long and really heartbreaking domestic adoption attempt, and we've been waiting now for Russia for almost a year. We were getting ready to go into the holidays thinking it would be our last holiday as just the two of us."

Boyle, whose official adoption request is pending in Petrozavodsk, says he has had more questions than answers since learning of the Russian legislation. He says he has read comments by Pavel Astakhov, Russia's child rights commissioner, that the ban would even prevent the departure of dozens of children who have already been cleared to go to their new U.S. homes. But he also knows Putin has said that any changes to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Adoptions Agreement, which entered into force just last month, would require a year's notice.

U.S. adoption agencies say they've been unable to provide clear answers to their clients. Several say on their websites that are not currently opening any new Russian adoption cases.

Born Of Tragedy

On December 21, the U.S. State Department's Office of Children's Issues held a private informational call with U.S. adoption advocates. It has since posted a message on its website encouraging families in the process of a Russian adoption to register for updates.

U.S. families have adopted 60,000 Russian children since 1992, including many with disabilities. In 2011, more Russian children were adopted by U.S. parents than by families from any other country. The process, which usually takes around 18 months, costs up to $60,000 and requires extensive paperwork, background checks, and three visits to Russia by the prospective family.

The Russian ban is named after Dima Yakovlev, a 21-month-old boy who died of heatstroke in 2008 after his adoptive U.S. father accidently left him in a hot car for nine hours. Nineteen adopted Russian children have died in the United States in the past decade.

Nevertheless, the Russian move is a response to U.S. legislation signed into law this month that would punish Russian officials implicated in gross human rights violations, including in the 2009 prison death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Boyle says he wonders why Russia couldn't have instead responded by enacting sanctions against the abusive U.S. parents or welfare officials implicated in the deaths of the 19 Russian adoptees. The country, he feels, is victimizing not only innocent U.S. families, but its more than 700,000 orphans.

Charlotte, 4, came to the United States in March.Charlotte, 4, came to the United States in March.
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Charlotte, 4, came to the United States in March.
Charlotte, 4, came to the United States in March.
Kelly, a stay-at-home mom in Virginia, agrees. She is the adoptive mother of Charlotte, a 4-year-old with Down syndrome and Celiac disease. She brought her daughter to the United States this March from an orphanage near Moscow. Kelly is now in the process of adopting two more children from the same orphanage, both also with Down syndrome. Like several other prospective parents who spoke to RFE/RL, she requested that her last name not be used for fear that it might jeopardize the adoption.

"I am absolutely concerned about the ban, particularly for the children with special needs, because there is no life for them [in Russian orphanages]," she says. "Children aren't meant to be political pawns."

Alongside the ban, Putin on December 28 signed a decree aimed at boosting support for orphans with serious health conditions.

Frustrated Families

Another prospective adoptive mother who requested anonymity said she was "devastated" and had been "crying for days."

"Our biological daughter keeps talking about the Russian brother she now may never have," she said.

Another mother who requested anonymity wrote to RFE/RL on December 27 from Russia, where she had arrived to pick up her adopted child. She was hurrying to return to the United States. "We are relieved to have been spared," she wrote.

Prospective parents say they now must wait and do what they can, including signing online petitions. One, a letter urging Putin to reject the ban, was written by Alexander D'Jamoos, who was born with deformed hands and legs in Penza, Russia. He was adopted at 15 by a Texas family and recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

Another petition urges the White House to add the names of Russian legislators supporting the adoption ban to the list of Russians facing sanctions under the Magnitsky Act. It now has nearly 55,000 signatures.

"We are praying a lot and we are writing senators and writing congressmen and anyone who will listen," Kelly said ahead of Putin's signing of the bill. "We are praying for a Hail Mary at the last hour."
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Irina
December 28, 2012 20:58
The saddest thing about all this is not that American parents won't be able to adopt Russian children (they can, after all, adopt from another country) but that these abandoned children will have to stay in a Russian orphanage indefinitely. I feel so sorry for those children.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
December 29, 2012 01:04
Indeed. Ukraine isn't making this mistake.

by: John Newcomb from: Canada
December 28, 2012 22:38
Putinist Russia defaults on the bilateral agreement with the US, but also hasn't ratified Hague Adoption Convention to protect Russian orphans in adoption process and reduce corruption.

Breaking the treaty, ignoring the Convention and tying the anti-orphan Act to the Magnitsky List Act - all are signs pointing to high degree of cynical manipulation and victimization of Russian orphans by the Putinist government.

Now Putinist child-protection minister Pavel Astakhov promises a "Russia Without Orphans" [Россия без сирот] by 2020 to rationalize this Putinist anti-orphan act. How likely is that??

US Bureau of Consular Affairs, Russian adoption page:
http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_info.php?country-select=russia

Pavel Astakhov: "We can almost completely reduce children's homes by 2020": http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2100697


by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 29, 2012 15:24
Yeah,what Russia badly needs today,just as it has always needed is an `arab` spring.We all hope that after Syria and Persia,Lord Jim will Carry the torch of the arab springers unto mother Russia as well.The country is in a dire need of adoption!!!

by: Anonymous
December 29, 2012 21:45
These children are safer in Russia.I support the adoption ban.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
December 30, 2012 03:08
The most interesting is that in all of this is to blame Obama..
He presented Putin all on South Caucasus, buried the American space program and cut military spending..
While Obama has engaged in empty talk, Putin has built gas and oil pipelines and put the West dependent on Russia.
While Obama and his wife planted radishes on the White House lawn, Putin was building nuclear submarines.
Americans want shed tears for the orphans and do not want think, that nuclear missiles will fly tomorrow on the head of dweeb Obama.
Say thank to your african-american, who must graze cattle in Africa and not be involved in politics.
Putin immediately realized that before him african shepherd and used the situation....
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Free Abkhazia&Ossetia
December 30, 2012 11:44
You are bloody right as always deer Vahe-Obamovitch is the one to blame and he is not the only one-Hillarious Hillary is also guilty and we all think the african shepherd must include some georgian vakhtangs in his herd to graze some grass because otherwise they will die of hunger like a georgian in Mosscow!!!Somebody must adopt Vakhtang quickly before Bidzinashvili passes a similar law banning the adoption of georgian geniuses!!!
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
December 31, 2012 02:59
...camel so happy, that Putin is preparing for nuclear war?
I doubt very much, that in you cave can sit out a nuclear winter with your friends- abkhaz racists and marauders....
You, underwear and sheets stolen from from Georgian grandmothers already dragged into the cave?
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa
December 30, 2012 18:43
Vartang ebi , lay off the CHA CHA its starting to affect your tiny mind. Mr bigs submarines are rusting in mourmansk, . The US is about to surpass mother russia as the worlds largest energy producer as for those pipes lines , their pointed in the wrong direction. Mr Obama may be weak but at least he s leaving in four years, as for mr big , he s installed himself dictator for life.

by: TiredAdoptee
December 30, 2012 15:56
Adoption in the US is an abusive system due to closed records and no laws protecting adoptees in open adoption from being cut off from our real parents. No one asks we adoptees what WE want, or who we want to live with. I am tired of whinny immature infertile women getting all the control just because they BOUGHT it. If these self obsessed infertile couples are CSCO concerned about the kids in Russia why don; they donate thousands to the orphanages there? Yeah, right all they care about is getting to buy another woman's baby who was brainwashed into giving her child away. So many Russian adoptees have been murdered by adoptive parents in the US and so have many other adoptees and most adoptive parents ignore the fact that closed adoption was started by a baby stealing child molester Georgia Tann and the laws today are
the same as the crimes she enacted. I think this ban is great, and Russia should start more programs to help their kids while adoptees here need to get adoption BANNED in the US once and for all BECAUSE ADOPTION HAS NEVER BEEN IN THE BEST INTERST OF THE CHILD. I know it hell wasn't for me.
In Response

by: Ilya
January 01, 2013 13:23
"So many Russian adoptees have been murdered by adoptive parents in the US"
How many adoptess? 19 out of tens of thousands. How many of those tens of thousands would have died had they been left in Russia? How many of the rest would have had the opportunities they have in the US?

by: J. JUAREZ from: MEXICO. D.F.
December 31, 2012 16:40
"GUANTANAMO COUNTRY" ACCUSING ANY OTHER COUNTRY FROM "HUMAN RIGHT VIOLATIONS" IS PARADOXICAL!

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