Shock, heartbreak for U.S. parents adopting Russian kids

Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:21am EST
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By Corrie MacLaggan

(Reuters) - For months, life for Ann and Kurt Suhs has been a whirlwind of assembling documents, getting fingerprinted and scheduling evaluations of their Atlanta-area home in preparation for welcoming a Russian child into their family for a second time.

Now, the couple - who adopted their son Ben, now 7, from Russia at age 13 months - say they were blindsided by news that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Friday banning Americans from adopting Russian children effective next Tuesday.

"It's hard to think that it would all stop, that it would all just come to such a screeching halt," Ann Suhs said. "We haven't talked about a Plan B. We hope and we pray."

She and her husband are among some 1,500 U.S. families who are in the process of adopting a child from Russia, according to an estimate from the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Council For Adoption. Some of those families had just started paperwork, while others had already been matched with a child and, in some cases, had the chance to meet the boy or girl.

The Russian measure was passed in retaliation for a U.S. human rights law - approved this month as part of a trade bill and signed by President Barack Obama - that bars entry to Russians accused of involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other alleged rights abuses.

Putin has defended the Russian law by saying his country should care for its own children. But critics including child rights advocates say it is an unfair move that uses orphans as pawns in an unrelated dispute.

Ann and Kurt Suhs, who were waiting to be matched with a child, had been frantically checking every morning for news about the Russian proposal moving through the legislative process. They had chosen Russia in part because Kurt Suhs' grandmother grew up there.

On a recent day, "I looked at Kurt and said, 'Do we know what we're going to do if this goes through?'" Ann Suhs said. "We can't put our heads around it to say, 'OK, we give up on this dream.'"   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the State Council at the Kremlin in Moscow December 27, 2012. REUTERS/Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool