MOSCOW (AP) — After weeks of anxiety plodding through the opaque Russian legal system, two U.S. women have custody of their adopted Russian children and are preparing to take them home to start a new life together.
Jeana Bonner of South Jordan, Utah, and Rebecca Preece from Nampa, Idaho, told The Associated Press on Saturday about the expenses, the confusion and emotional swings they've gone through since arriving in Moscow in mid-January, expecting to quickly leave with their children, both of whom have Down syndrome.
The Bonners and Preeces each have another child with the syndrome.
Bonner and Preece, and their husbands Wayne and Brian, had spent about a year, including multiple trips to Russia, to arrange for the adoption of the 5-year-old girl and 4 ½-year-old boy. By late 2012, the adoptions had received court approval and they thought all they had to do was wait out the 30-day period in which such rulings can be challenged.
But in those 30 days, a ban on Americans adopting Russian children sped through parliament and into law, part of a hastily born package of measures retaliating against a new U.S. law allowing sanctions on Russians identified as human-rights violators.
When Jeana Bonner and the Preeces arrived in Moscow, they found themselves caught in a legalistic blind alley. Although officials said adoptions approved before the ban would go through, the judge who was to issue the decree formally granting custody said the ban meant there was now no mechanism for him to do so.
Help came from a surprising quarter — the office of Russia's children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who has been one of the strongest critics of American adoptions. The office appointed an attorney for the Preeces and Bonners, who obtained a Supreme Court order directing the lower court to immediately issue the decree, Bonner said.
"We were really excited and thought 'let's go pick up our children'," Bonner said. But the lower court waited another 15 days. "That was really frustrating and disheartening" especially because some other American adoptive parent had received quick action from courts in other regions of Moscow, she said.