Freeze on Russian adoptions hits home

Published On: Dec 27 2012 04:32:47 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 27 2012 07:43:20 PM EST
Russia adoption
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

For decades, American families looking to adopt children overseas have often chosen to take in children from Russian orphanages.

That will likely come to an end after Russia’s Upper House of Parliament approved a measure banning adoption of Russian children by Americans. The new law await action by President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it in the coming days.

This legislation would affect thousands of American families looking to adopt internationally.

"These are children that are orphaned. These are children that are abandoned by Russian families," said adoption attorney Michael Shorstein. "UNICEF says there are over 700,000 abandoned and orphaned children, and the US has been one of the best alternatives for those children. It is a travesty to shut the doors for our families to those children."

The news of the pending Russian law broke hits close to home for a local mother who says the only hope for hundreds of thousands of children in Russia orphanages is to be adopted by a foreign family.

Charlene Francis adopted her daughter, Sidney, from Russia 14 years ago when the girl was 10½ and malnourished.  Now a graduate of Fletcher High School, Sidney (pictured, right) is attending Florida State College at Jacksonville, works two jobs and recently bought her own house.

"She’s living the American dream of home ownership and working hard," Charlene Francis said. "She’s successful in many ways because of the fact that she came here. If she were still in Russia, she would have been kicked out of the orphanage at 16 and who knows what would have happened to her."

A local board-certified adoption attorney herself, Charlene Francis knows all about the process and chose to adopt a child from Russia instead of an American child because she was older and wanted the adoption finalized quickly.

Dozens of Russian orphans close to being adopted are expected to be blocked from leaving the country.  Francis’ heart breaks knowing many Americans will likely not be able to share the life-changing experience she’s had.

"In Russia, they don’t seem to want to adopt their children, and so where else are these children going to go?" Francis asked.

The adoption ban is widely seen as retaliation for a law President Barack Obama signed earlier this month that calls for sanctions again Russians deemed to be human rights violators.

Shorstein said Russian adoptions have been popular among Americans who want an alternative to the trend in this country toward open adoptions -- where the birth mother is known to and can stay in touch with the adopted child.

Shorstein said Russian adoptions have been popular among Americans who want an alternative to the trend in this country toward open adoptions -- where the birth mother is known to and can stay in touch with the adopted child.