Tuesday, a law signed by Russian president Vladamir Putin goes into effect---banning American families from adopting Russian children. It's believed the measure is in response to the "Magnitsky Act" signed by President Obama, which bars Russian citizens accused of violating human rights from traveling to the US. The Russian ban is disheartening to many Iowa families who know firsthand the difficulties, and joys, of completing an adoption.
While you couldn't tell by looking at them, both of Kirk and Jo Thedens' children are adopted. Emily was adopted in the US, Andrew from Russia.
"We met a couple that had adopted two children from Russia and got to talking to them and got to meet their kids, and that just kind of led our hearts to Russia," said Jo Thedens.
But completing Andrew's adoption process wasn't easy. It involved significant financial investment, two trips to Russia, and lots of waiting.
"You're still on pins and needles thinking, 'God what if this happens? What if they decide not to?' Or if the relatives of the child visit them in the orphanage, then it was six months waiting period before you could even start over," said Kirk Thedens.
The Thedens heart now breaks for families who are now in those shoes, and may never get to bring home their children from Russia, with the country's new law banning US adoptions.
"Your heart is invested from the get-go. And once you get that picture or video, it's even more so. So for those families to have to think about the possibility that they will no longer be able to bring that child home into their family--I can't imagine the heartbreak," Jo Thedens said.
While the emotional heartbreak is immense for the families involved, the Thedens also empathize for the children left in Russian orphanages, now facing an uncertain future.
"There's possibly a thousand a year that now unless some other country picks up adopting from Russia, a lot of kids aren't going to find homes," said Jo Thedens.
It makes the Thedens thankful for their successful adoptions. Even Andrew, at age 14, knows he's lucky to be part of his US family.
"Here you wouldn't go into the military at age 16, but there you would. It's all a lot different," Andrew Thedens said.
Now the Thedens just hope Russia and the US will quit playing political games, jeopardizing other families and potentially putting kids at risk, while also hoping maybe one day soon Russian adoptions are reinstated so other children like Andrew can have a permanent place to call home.
Another local family that adopted three children from Russia this summer is now on a mission to get Russia to reconsider its American adoption ban. It's working to contact the Russian government, even offering to raise $20,000 per child-- up to a million dollars total-- as payment to orphanages for families who were already in the process of adopting children.
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