The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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January 16, 2013

Russian adoption ban wrenching for families in US

(Continued)

MOSCOW —

"Russians are good people," Suhs said. "You just have to hope people put aside the politics and do the right thing for the kids."

The immediate cause of Russia's ban was to retaliate for the new U.S. law targeting Russians accused of human rights abuses. But the ban also reflects long-brewing resentment in Russia over the 60,000 Russian children who have been adopted by Americans in the past two decades, 19 of whom have died.

UNICEF estimates there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia — and 105,000 live in orphanages. Russia has been trying to increase domestic adoptions and says about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child.

The number of domestic adoptions fell in recent years: Russians in 2011 adopted 7,416 children, a drop of more than 2,100 from 2007, according to Education Ministry figures published in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The same report showed that Americans adopted 956 Russian children in 2011, 89 of them classified as disabled.

Chuck Johnson of the Virginia-based National Council for Adoption has commended Russia for trying to improve its child-welfare system, and was elated in November when the U.S. and Russia completed a long-in-the-works adoption treaty. Now, he's dismayed at the ban and its emotional toll on the affected U.S. families.

"The way the information is being given out is really cruel," he said. "This has been a very discouraging and bitter outcome."

For the Bonners, however, there's no option but to persevere — especially in light of bureaucratic setbacks last year that twice made them think their adoption quest was doomed.

"Two times it looked like there was no way it was going to work out, and we grieved through that," Jeana Bonner said. "It just hurts and is so painful.

"This time we're going to be a hopeful as possible. We're not going to give up until we've exhausted every possible avenue."

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