Families in the midst of adopting Russian orphans urge officials to release children

A group of American families who were in the final stages of adopting children from Russia when that country banned adoptions by Americans recently came to Washington on Tuesday, offering new proposals to address Russian lawmakers’ concerns.

“This group of families is dedicated to these children,” said Sabrina Dickenson Turri of Florida, who has one adopted son from Russia and was on the cusp of adopting a Russian girl when the ban was enacted in December.

On the verge of tears, Turri said she spoke for 230 “pipeline” families who were offering Russian officials increased access, oversight and transparency around adopted children once they are in the United States, including visits from Russian officials to check on their welfare.

She called on President Obama to address the issue with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, adding, “Don’t let our children be abandoned again due to politics.”

The families, speaking at the National Press Club, said they had presented their offer to U.S. lawmakers and offered it to the Russian ambassador later in the day.

The ban has been criticized as a political move in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, which imposed visa and financial sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights abuses.

Russian lawmakers, however, said it was in response to bad outcomes for Russian children adopted by Americans, including a Virginia toddler who was mistakenly left to die in a hot car and a 7-year-old boy who was sent back to Russia alone on a plane by an adoptive mother who said she could not handle him.

Signed into law by Putin, the ban devastated American families who were in the process of adopting, particularly those who had met and bonded with children they had been approved to adopt.

The ban also caused furor among many Russians, who marched in protest, accusing their leaders of playing politics with children’s lives.

Maria Kroupina, a Russian child psychologist and professor at the University of Minnesota, urged U.S. and Russian lawmakers to act quickly on resolving the cases, saying that for children who have bonded with their American adoptive parents, the ban was “damaging to a child’s life.”

“These parents are really committed to post-adoption services,” she said.

Although the families said they have bonded with their children and consider themselves to be their parents, some have heard informally through lawyers or agencies in Russia that the children have since been adopted or placed in foster care domestically.

But Joanna Benigno of New York, who was in the process of adopting a boy, called the reports unconfirmed rumors. “All we know is that we love these children, we’ve bonded with them, we’ve made promises that we were going to be their forever parents, we’re going to keep fighting,” she said. “However long it takes, we’re not going away.”

Tara Bahrampour, a staff writer based in Washington, D.C., writes about aging and mental health.
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