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Article posted: 12/29/2012 8:00 AM

Suburban families say Russian adoption ban adds to complicated process

Suburban parents react to Russia’s decision

By Jake Griffin

Adoption is a long and arduous process to begin with, but in recent years, it's become even more difficult for American families seeking to adopt Russian children.

With Russian President Vladimir signing a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children in response to an American law that deems some Russians as human-rights violators, some adoptive parents and adoption agency officials say a burgeoning diplomatic crisis has put the well-being children at risk. And it's not likely to end any time soon, they fear.

"I'm not surprised it moved so fast because this is a very emotional subject in that country," said Brian Bielski of Roselle.

Because of legal and political entanglements, it took significantly longer than originally planned for Bielski and his wife, Kelly, to bring their son Mason home from a Russian orphanage in 2011. He said it would be impossible now.

Russian adoption officials said roughly 50 children currently in the process of being adopted by Americans will now remain in Russian orphanages instead of finding a new home. And those American couples will have to start the adoption process all over.

"It's sad," he said. "When you're dealing with a foreign country like that, you've got to be prepared for anything."

Robert Jimenez, executive director of St. Mary's Adoption and Maternity Services in Arlington Heights, said the group's summer program that brings Russian children over for fostering for several weeks in an effort to spur adoption will likely be canceled this year. He said Russian adoption officials are probably just as upset as Americans.

"We have a great relationship with the agencies out of our Russian areas, but it's the politicians that basically dictate what goes on," he said. "And right now, the Russian government seems to have the idea they are in control at this point."

It's not like this type of reaction is unheard of. In 2010, most Russian adoptions were suspended after a woman in Tennessee who had adopted a Russian child put the boy on a plane alone and sent him back to Russia.

That slowed the Bielskis from adopting by roughly eight months, Brian Bielski said.

"We were next in line when that happened," he said.

It actually took former Soviet Union Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's intervention to spur movement in the Bielski's adoption process.

In the wake of that incident, the Russian legal process -- which also varies from region to region there -- got more complicated, parents and agency officials said.

Kris McClelland had adopted one son years ago from Russia with limited issues, but when the family adopted a second son this year, it took three trips, with three court dates during the final one.

"It was very difficult and very draining," said the mother of six who now lives in Peoria. "I don't anticipate we'll adopt again, but if we wanted to, I don't even know if it's going to be a possibility."

Jimenez said none of St. Mary's clients were affected by the Russian government's edicts. Some area adoption agencies had stopped working in Russia even before this latest skirmish.

"We did know this was coming down the road," Jimenez said. "We knew the relationship between the U.S., The Hague and Russia was very tense. It's like any foreign country you deal with; they believe in what they believe."

Unlike previous standoffs between the two sides, Bielski said he believes this one is different.

"It's tragic that politics got in the way," he said. "But how can anyone do that? You don't bring kids into politics. You just don't do it. I think this is going to last a long, long time."

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