* Russia barred U.S. adoptions to retaliate against new law
* U.S. law targets Russians accused of human rights abuses
* Americans have adopted 45,000 Russian children since 1999
By Corrie MacLaggan
Dec 29 For months, life for Ann and Kurt Suhs
has been a whirlwind of assembling documents, getting
fingerprinted and scheduling evaluations of their Atlanta-area
home in preparation for welcoming a Russian child into their
family for a second time.
Now, the couple - who adopted their son Ben, now 7, from
Russia at age 13 months - say they were blindsided by news that
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Friday banning
Americans from adopting Russian children effective next Tuesday.
"It's hard to think that it would all stop, that it would
all just come to such a screeching halt," Ann Suhs said. "We
haven't talked about a Plan B. We hope and we pray."
She and her husband are among some 1,500 U.S. families who
are in the process of adopting a child from Russia, according to
an estimate from the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Council
For Adoption. Some of those families had just started paperwork,
while others had already been matched with a child and, in some
cases, had the chance to meet the boy or girl.
The Russian measure was passed in retaliation for a U.S.
human rights law - approved this month as part of a trade bill
and signed by President Barack Obama - that bars entry to
Russians accused of involvement in the death in custody of
anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other alleged rights
Putin has defended the Russian law by saying his country
should care for its own children. But critics including child
rights advocates say it is an unfair move that uses orphans as
pawns in an unrelated dispute.
Ann and Kurt Suhs, who were waiting to be matched with a
child, had been frantically checking every morning for news
about the Russian proposal moving through the legislative
process. They had chosen Russia in part because Kurt Suhs'
grandmother grew up there.
On a recent day, "I looked at Kurt and said, 'Do we know
what we're going to do if this goes through?'" Ann Suhs said.
"We can't put our heads around it to say, 'OK, we give up on
A November agreement between Russia and the United States
calls for a one-year transition period in the case of either
country banning adoptions, said Lauren Koch, a spokeswoman for
the National Council For Adoption.
"All we can hope for now is that President Putin will honor
the terms of that agreement and at least, at a very minimum,
allow those families who have been matched with a child to bring
him/her home," Koch said in an email.
But Russia is withdrawing from that agreement under the law
Putin signed, and there was no indication any American adoptions
now under way would go through other than six that Russian
officials said have been approved by Russian courts.
'ONCE YOU'VE MET THAT CHILD'
Americans have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children
since 1999, including 962 last year.
More than 650,000 children are considered orphans in Russia
- though some were rejected by their parents or taken from
dysfunctional homes. Of those, 110,000 lived in state
institutions in 2011, according to government figures.
Many American families are now in limbo.
"Once you've met that child, that's your child, and that
child is in your mind, he or she is in your heart, there are
pictures on your refrigerator," said Frank Garrott, president of
Gladney Center for Adoption, a Fort Worth, Texas-based adoption
agency working with about 25 families now in the process of
adopting a child from Russia.
In Oakland, California, the news from Russia has Lease Wong
holding her little girl especially tightly. She and her husband,
Marty, arrived home from Russia about a month ago with their
newly adopted daughter, Brianna, who is now 23 months old.
"I think she knows she has a family," said Lease Wong, who
owns a toy store. "I have to think of all those other children.
They're losing their opportunity for a family."
As Wong spoke, the girl chattered away in the background.
Those are sounds that Kim and Robert Summers are desperate
to hear. They traveled to Russia in August to meet the boy who
they call Preston - he's known as Stanislav in Russia - then
returned to Russia earlier this month to continue the adoption
process. They had expected to go back to Russia in January to
bring the boy home to New Jersey.
At their home in New Jersey, a stroller for the red-headed
21-month-old sits in the dining room and his crib is already
The Summers' two-year adoption journey followed eight years
of infertility struggles, three miscarriages and four
unsuccessful attempts at in vitro fertilization. After
soul-searching and prayers, they turned to international
adoption, and the match with the boy was approved at a December
court hearing, they said.
Kim Summers, a chef who has no other children, said she quit
her job to become a stay-at-home mother to Preston.
When they left Russia in December, they were so sure they
would be back the next month that they left their diaper bag
with a family there.
On Friday, Kim Summers expressed shock, outrage and a
determination to bring her son home in January as planned.
"I promised this baby I was going to be his mommy," she
said. "I'm a mommy on a mission."