Russia rejects request to lift ban on adoptions by Americans
| January 19th 2014
NEW YORK: A year after Russia imposed a ban on adoptions by Americans, some affected U.S. families are reluctantly looking elsewhere to adopt. Others refuse to abandon flickering hopes of uniting with the Russian children who won their hearts.
Thirty-three of the families have filed appeals with the European Court of Human Rights, contending that the ban violates the rights of the orphans whose adoptions were thwarted. But there's no tight time frame for the case, and even a favourable ruling might be unenforceable if Russia objects.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities have spurned requests from U.S. officials to reconsider the ban, and the two governments have other volatile issues on their mutual agenda — including terrorism and various foreign policy differences — as the international community prepares for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month
"I don't see movement on the Russian side, and on the U.S. side we've heard nothing," said Diana Gerson, a New York City rabbi who had her heart set on adopting a Russian toddler. "I feel in many ways we were abandoned."
By the Russians' count, the ban halted the pending adoptions of 259 children. Roughly 230 U.S. families, some seeking to adopt more than one child, were affected — including scores of Americans who had bonded face-to-face with the children during visits to their orphanages.
The Americans have been dropped from Russia's official roster of prospective adoptive parents, and many of the orphans — possibly more than half — already have been placed with Russian families.
At Christmas, several dozen of the Americans signed an open letter to the children they had hoped to adopt. The letter, published by some Russian media outlets, expressed gratitude to the Russian families who had taken in some of the children, while also hinting at a whirl of other emotions.
"It has now been one year since we've held you in our arms and promised you we would be back and together as a family," the letter said. "We only want you to know that we love you today, tomorrow, and forever even though we are miles across the ocean."
Throughout the 12 months, the issue has occasionally resurfaced, then faded from the news spotlight.
There was a flurry of activity in May, when more than 150 members of Congress signed a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A congressional delegation visiting Moscow urged Russian officials to allow completion of the pending adoptions. And many of the affected families visited Washington, seeking support for their cause.
Hoping to ease Russia's concerns about the treatment of Russian children in the U.S., the families proposed that any such adoptions in the future be subject to more stringent post-adoption scrutiny.
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