When Terry and Wendi Schuur adopted their daughter, Marina, from Russia in 2010, the process was long, emotional and fraught with bureaucratic roadblocks.
But that process is poised to become even more difficult, if not impossible, to navigate after a new Russian law that bars Americans from adopting children from the country.
Wendi Schuur, of Norman, said she and her husband chose to adopt Marina after they were unable to have children themselves. The two brought their daughter home in May 2010, after two years of paperwork and legal wrangling.
“It was a very long, emotional process,” Schuur said. “I would wake up every morning and go online to make sure the two countries were still getting along.”
Part of the reason for the frustration, she said, was a burdensome set of regulations in force in Russia, including a rule that requires that families make no fewer than three trips to the country before adopting.
Those regulations have led to a decline in interest among families in Oklahoma and elsewhere in adopting children from Russia, said Jennifer Lanter, a spokeswoman for Gladney Center for Adoption, a Fort Worth, Texas-based adoption agency. The agency works with Oklahoma families, including the Schuurs.
“Adoptions between Russia and the United States have been slowly decreasing over the last few years,” Lanter said. “It's honestly one of the more difficult countries to adopt from.”
The process now will be hampered by a new law barring Americans from adopting Russian children. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law Friday.
The ban is part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
Although some top Russian officials, including the country's foreign minister, openly opposed the bill, Putin signed it less than 24 hours after receiving it from Parliament, where it passed both houses overwhelmingly.
The law also calls for the closure of nongovernmental organizations receiving American funding if their activities are classified as political — a broad definition many fear could be used to close any nongovernmental organization that offends the Kremlin.
The ban, which takes effect Tuesday, is in response to a measure signed into law by President Barack Obama this month that calls for sanctions against Russians assessed to be human rights violators.
That stems from the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after accusing Russian officials of a $230 million tax fraud. He was repeatedly denied medical treatment and died in a Russian jail in 2009. Russian rights groups claimed he was severely beaten.
Stephani Haslam, of Edmond, has three daughters she adopted from Russia. She and her husband had always intended to adopt rather than having biological children, she said.
“We felt like there were plenty of children that needed families,” she said.
Haslam said she's angry at the Russian government's actions. The ban holds the country's children hostage for political purposes, she said.
“I think it's very unfortunate that the children are the victims in this political posturing,” she said.
Wendi Schuur, whose daughter is now 41/2 years old, said she worries about the children in Russian orphanages who are now cut off from American families. When Wendi Schuur and her husband toured the orphanage where they found their daughter, she said it was clean and safe, but appeared to be understaffed.
The staff did their best with their resources, but appeared to be overwhelmed by the number of children in their care.
“It's so unfortunate that those children are being used as political pawns,” she said. “It absolutely breaks my heart.”
The Associated Press
It's so unfortunate that those children are being used as political pawns. It absolutely breaks my heart.”