MOSCOW, Russia–On Wednesday, Russia’s parliament gave overwhelming preliminary approval to a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
Before becoming law, the measure has to pass a third reading in the State Duma, which is set for Friday, after which it would go to the upper house, the Federation Council and then require President Vladimir Putin’s signature.
The move is already gaining the attention of adoption agencies and families across the country and in West Michigan.
“If a bill did pass, any new families who wanted to adopt from Russia wouldn’t be able to do so,”said William Blacquiere, President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, which handles both U.S. and International adoptions. “There are probably in the U.S. 1500 families in the process with Russia and nobody is quite sure what would happen with those adoptions.”
Russian lawmakers are considering the measure partly as retaliation to a recent law U.S. President Barack Obama signed on Dec. 14, called the Magnitsky Act. This imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.
Many Russians have also had a long resentment toward the adoption of Russian children by Americans. The feelings have been fueled by cases of abuse or deaths of Russian children adopted by Americans.
The anger hit the boiling point in 2010 when an American woman sent back a 7-year-old Russian boy she had adopted, saying he had behavioral problems and she didn’t want him anymore.
However, advocates for Russian adoption in America point out the majority of cases result in loving families and positive outcomes
“There are a lot of children who are waiting for a permanent family and don’t have that opportunity to be adopted in Russia, so they grow up in an institution,” Blacquiere said. “It’s also good for families, some who have infertility issues and this gives us access. Unfortunately children become the victim of politics between countries.”
Russia is one of the top sources of international adoption to the U.S., second only to China. More than 45,000 adoptions have taken place in the last decade.
Dozens of families in West Michigan are part of those statistics.
“When we found out who are son was, you already know child and are wrapping your heart and mind, we were able to go and get him in Siberia,” remembers Susan Teboss from Grand Rapids, who adopted all three of her children from Russia.
She recalled when her and her husband went to get their oldest son, Mathew, at an orphanage in Siberia.
“You go over there and see a child who hasn’t been held very much and just longing for something to love them and it’s huge, it changes you forever, ” she said.
Her children are now 14, 13 and 11. They have grown up in West Michigan. Teboss hopes this legislation does not pass, so other orphans can find homes here like her children did.
“The parents who have invested in these kids’ hearts and decided they want to do this, it is heartbreaking that they might not be able to go,” said Teboss.