Dmitry Lovetsky, Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (MCT) — Andy and Bethany Nagel left photos of themselves at the orphanage for the little boy with Down syndrome who was going to be their son. We'll be back, they told 4-year-old Timofey, blowing kisses from the doorway and retreating anxiously into the chilly street.
Their whole life was in the album they left that day in October: pictures of the room they'd fixed up for Timofey at their home in suburban Maryland; grinning images of their two American sons, ages 6 and 13, who would be his brothers. The book sat beside Timofey's bed in Baby Home No. 13, and staffers would help him thumb through the pages.
"Where is your papa?" they'd ask, and he'd point to Andy's picture. "Where is your mama?" And he'd find Bethany.
In January, Natalia Nikiforova, chief doctor at Baby Home No. 13, crept into Timofey's room, quietly picked up the album and hid it in her office. There would be no American family.
The new Russian law banning adoptions by U.S. families that took effect Jan. 1 erased the Nagels' plans to bring Timofey to America in March. In all, it stranded more than 330 families who had already begun stitching hoped-for Russian adoptees into the webs of their lives.
"We have all these sorts of feelings of grief that we could process — if we didn't know he's still out there," said Andy Nagel, 31, an assistant pastor at a Presbyterian church in Germantown, Md.
The estimated 1,000 Russian adoptions annually by American families has been a tender subject in the Kremlin for years. Though an estimated 300,000 orphans languish in about 3,000 facilities across Russia, handing them over to a former Cold War enemy can strike a painful note.
The occasional story of a Russian adoptee abused or neglected in an American home — as in the case of 21-month-old Dima Yakovlev, who died in 2008 when his American father left him in a hot car for nine hours — sparks outraged headlines across the country.
But critics say the motivation for the ban was not so much concern over potential harm — they point out that far more orphans die after being adopted in Russian homes — as it was reprisal for a U.S. statute focusing on human rights in Russia. The American measure, signed into law earlier in December, imposes visa restrictions and financial sanctions on Russian officials involved in the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Magnitsky claimed to have uncovered the theft of more than $230 million in public funds by corrupt Russian officials, but he was charged with tax evasion and died under suspicious circumstances in a Russian jail in November 2009.
The subsequent Russian ban "is a draconian piece of legislation because it not only bans intercountry adoptions to the United States, but even bans Russian citizens from doing any business with people who do intercountry adoptions to the U.S.," said Diane Kunz, director of the New York-based Center for Adoption Policy.
Kunz said the ban immediately affected about 700 children who were in the process of being adopted by American families. Most wrenchingly, about 300 of the children had already met and were beginning to get to know their prospective new parents. They suddenly found themselves cut off.
"These are the families that were completely out of luck, and it's just a tragedy," Kunz said.
Families tell stories of paperwork abruptly returned unprocessed by Russian government offices; of decorated rooms and boxes of toys with no one to claim them; of a feeling of loss akin to miscarriage, only worse in a way because they find themselves imagining what's happening to the child left behind in the orphanage.
So far, 99 of the more than 300 children originally paired with U.S. families have been adopted by families in Russia or other mainly Western countries.
- Many Mormon missionaries who return home...
- 50 things you might not know about 15 of your...
- Judge orders Colo. cake-maker to serve gay...
- Amish school shooter's kin: Horror, then healing
- Report: German president boycotting Sochi...
- Food-tech startups aim to replace eggs and...
- 'Deseret News Sunday Edition' looks at Sharia...
- Central African Republic mobs launch ethnic...
- Judge orders Colo. cake-maker to serve... 109
- Many Mormon missionaries who return... 79
- Fast-food strikes return amid push for... 32
- Colorado court hears discrimination... 30
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela 26
- Space and religion: How believers view... 18
- Obama administration will allow green... 17
- Expelling Santa from school? Holiday... 16