MOSCOW (Reuters) - After a nerve-wracking month in Moscow, fearing their adoption bids might be foiled by a diplomatic spat, two U.S. families are now able to take their adopted Russian children home.
Jeana Bonner, 29, Rebecca Preece, 34 and their husbands had spent around a year trying to adopt two Russian orphans, both with special needs, only for their applications to be stalled at the final stages when Russia banned Americans adopting in December.
The ban was part of Russia’s retaliation for U.S. sanctions on suspected human rights abusers and marked a low point for President Barack Obama’s bid to improve relations with the former Cold War foe.
Even when courts ruled in January that Bonner and Preece’s adoptions could go ahead as they had already been approved, the families had to wait for a month and feared the process could hit further obstacles.
However the final decree was issued and the adoptive parents have now collected their new children and will take them home this week.
“In every mother there’s a mama-bear, you’re protective of your children,” Preece said as her 4-year-old adopted son Gabriel Artur romped around their hotel room in Moscow.
“I felt this wasn’t right, he was supposed to be in our family and I was going to do everything it took until that happened.”
Bonner said she was looking forward to introducing her two biological children to their new Russian sister Jaymi Viktoria.
“She’s the sweetest most fun little girl. I’m so excited to get her home so her sisters finally meet her - we’ve been talking about her for a year now and they’re going to have so much fun together,” she said.
Both families have biological children with Down’s syndrome and decided to adopt orphans with the same condition from Russia’s crowded orphanages, where children with serious illnesses or disabilities have less chance of finding homes.
While they will return to the United States with the children on Wednesday, other American families, who were less far along the legislative process, were not as lucky.
“I know what those families are going through, their hearts are broken and they want to be able to bring their children home, especially those with special needs,” Bonner said.
More than 650,000 children are considered orphans in Russia, and 110,000 of them lived in state institutions in 2011, official data shows. There were about 7,400 adoptions by Russian families in 2011, compared with 3,400 adoptions by families abroad.
American families adopt more Russian children than those of any other country, with more than 60,000 cases since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, including 962 in 2011.
Moscow said its ban was justified by the deaths of 19 Russian-born children adopted by U.S. parents in the past decade, and what they perceive as lenient treatment of them.
Tens of thousands of Russians, some denouncing President Vladimir Putin as a “child-killer”, marched through Moscow in January to protest against the ban.
Preece spoke of the joy she felt when she picked Gabriel up from the orphanage.
“You could hear him yelling and shouting ‘Mama, Mama’. He came right over and gave me a huge hug, I got his coat and hat on, we left and he never looked back.”
Editing by Robin Pomeroy