MINNESTRISTA, Minn. - One year after Russian President Vladimir Putin banned Americans from adopting Russian children, many families who hoped to be reunited with children they met and fell in love with are moving on, heartbroken.
Renee and John Thomas refuse to give up. Their son Jack, 8, was adopted from Russia four years ago. His younger brother, Teddy, was also supposed to be adopted, but the adoption ban halted his homecoming.
"It's really hard when you watch (Jack) … when he just out of the blue starts to get sad or teary eyed that his brother isn't home," Renee said.
The Thomas family met Teddy when he was almost 2-years-old. He's turning six soon. Their family has lobbied lawmakers, written letters to Putin and even sent a Christmas YouTube video in hopes Teddy might see it.
While their family continues the fight, many others have given up. Renee said some families have been told the children they've been waiting for have been placed in foster homes or adopted by other families. Renee vows to keep on trying.
"It's his brother. He still lives in an orphanage a world away, so we'll continue to fight," she said.
But fighting can take a toll even on the strongest people.
"It's tough. It goes up and down and you try to be strong, but it's been a four-year fight for our family," Renee said.
The family hopes Jack's Russian citizenship and biological tie will bring Teddy home. Renee said she's in daily contact with people oversees to find a way to work within Russian law to reunite the brothers.