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Russia's ban on adoptions by Americans holds firm

By David Crary

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 19 2014 1:21 p.m. MST

"In this circumstance, that's about as cruel as you could possibly be," Blunt said.

Another senator, Roger Wicker, R-Miss., helped win approval in June from the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for a resolution condemning "indiscriminate disruption of inter-country adoptions already in progress."

Last week, Wicker was among a group of senators who discussed international adoption with Secretary of State John Kerry. Wicker said he suggested that the Obama administration include on the U.S. delegation to the Sochi Olympics an American citizen who was born in Russia and raised in the U.S. by adoptive parents.

"It would make a statement that we want to raise the visibility of this issue," he said, evoking the prospect of the ban being discussed during telecasts of the opening ceremonies.

The State Department, which oversees some aspects of international adoption, held monthly conferences through July with families affected by the ban, then discontinued them for lack of new developments. However, department officials said they have continued to raise the issue with the Russians and are now planning one more outreach meeting with the U.S. families.

Developments related to the ban have been followed closely by some American parents who'd previously adopted children from Russia.

Among them is Tina Traster of Valley Cottage, N.Y., who is writing a book, "Rescuing Julia Twice," about the sometimes wrenching challenges that she and her husband faced after adopting an 8-month-old girl from a Siberian orphanage 11 years ago.

It took years for the couple to conclude that Julia had a condition known as reactive attachment disorder that limited her sociability and emotional outreach.

"We've made it our life's work to make her as grounded and stable and attached as possible," Traster said. "But these children are different... The journey is complicated. It's heartbreaking at times."

While Traster would like Russia to lift the ban, she also hopes the dispute helps educate more Americans about the challenges of adopting children with emotional difficulties, as was often the case with Russian orphans.

"Often the prospective adoptive parents are unprepared and under-schooled about how to raise these children who've begun their lives in orphanages," she said, urging specialized training for teachers and pediatricians as well as for parents.

Jane Waldman and Mark Braverman of Levittown, N.Y., adopted a nearly 4-year-old girl from a Russian orphanage in 2004 despite warnings that the child, Elaina, had fetal alcohol syndrome.

"We fell in love with her on our first trip," Waldman said. "Even with challenges, we wanted her."

Over the ensuing years, tutors, behavioral therapists and speech therapists worked with Elaina, helping her overcome many of the impediments that had delayed her development.

Now in 7th grade, Elaina is thriving, according to her mother, with many friends and a spot on a local swim team.

Waldman is frustrated that stories of troubled adoptions in the U.S. have gained prominence in Russia, while less attention is paid to the fact that most adoptions of Russian children go well.

"Yes, there are some horror stories," she said. "But Americans, properly screened, can provide wonderful, loving homes for those children who otherwise have little hope."

Elaina, answering questions by email, said she hopes for a career working with animals, perhaps as a veterinary technician.

As for the ban, Elaina wrote, "I think it is sad because I want other Russian kids to have the same chance at finding a great, forever family in America as I did."

Associated Press writer Maria Danilova in Moscow contributed to this report.

Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

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