Russian adoption ban upsets Minnesota families

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The new ban signed by President Vladimir Putin on the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans has provoked an outcry across the country and here in Minnesota.

Minnesota is among the states with the most adoptions of Russian-born children.

Renee and John Thomas, who live near Lake Minnetonka, have adopted from Russia and hope to again.

They have only met him once, but they consider him their son. Nikolai, or Teddy as they call him, lives in a Russian orphanage.

John Thomas said, "From the moment we met Teddy he was draped all over my wife."

They met him in 2009 when he was just a toddler.

Now 4-years-old, Teddy is the younger biological brother of their 7-year-old adopted son, Jack. They found out about him when they went to bring Jack home from Russia.

Thomas said of their son Jack, "He's excited to bring him home. And he often asks, 'When are we going to get Teddy?' And what I say is we're just waiting for the call."

It appears Jack will be waiting for that call a little longer.

Putin signed a bill banning adoptions to American families. It is retaliation, some say, for an American law that calls for sanctions against Russian human rights violators.

Americans and many Russians are angry, saying the children are victims of politics.

"I think it's a really unfortunate situation," said Wright Walling, an adoption attorney for over three decades with Walling, Berg and Debele of Minneapolis.

He said he has seen this from Russia before so there is hope adoptions will be allowed again.

"This will not be the end of Russian adoptions, but it will affect people in the short term dramatically," he said.

It's estimated there are nearly 50 Russian children who were just steps away in the process from being adopted by Americans. Whether some of them will still be allowed to come to the United States is still unclear. The ban goes into effect on Jan. 1.

"We can't lose hope," Renee Thomas said.

The Thomas' say Russian adoption officials were wonderful for their first adoption and have been wonderful since, despite a three year wait for Teddy.

"We very much want for our son to have his brother home. They've got a biological connection," Renee Thomas said.

She said it is heartbreaking knowing they have to wait for their second son.

"There will be a time when we meet him again. We just want it to be sooner than later," John Thomas said.

More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans in the last two decades.

There are currently more than 700,000 Russian children not living with parents.

Walling believes the country simply isn't capable of caring for all of them.


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