The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 18, 2014

Russia's ban on adoptions by Americans holds firm

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"It has now been one year since we've held you in our arms and promised you we would be back and together as a family," the letter said. "We only want you to know that we love you today, tomorrow, and forever even though we are miles across the ocean."

Throughout the 12 months, the issue has occasionally resurfaced, then faded from the news spotlight.

There was a flurry of activity in May, when more than 150 members of Congress signed a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A congressional delegation visiting Moscow urged Russian officials to allow completion of the pending adoptions. And many of the affected families visited Washington, seeking support for their cause.

Hoping to ease Russia's concerns about the treatment of Russian children in the U.S., the families proposed that any such adoptions in the future be subject to more stringent post-adoption scrutiny.

Among those who spoke in Washington was 8-year-old Jack Thomas, adopted from Russia in 2008 by Renee and John Thomas of Minnetrista, Minn. At the time the ban was imposed, the family was trying to adopt Jack's biological brother, Nikolai.

Over the past year, the family has lobbied energetically to get that adoption approved because of its exceptional nature; Renee Thomas says it is apparently the only one of the disrupted adoptions involving one sibling in the U.S. and another in Russia. Thomas says she's traveling to Russia on Wednesday to make the case that Jack and Nikolai, who is now 5, should be reunited under Russian policy of trying to keep siblings together as they grow up.

"We want to respect the Russian system of justice," she said.

Some of the other U.S. families could decide to adopt from other countries, Thomas said. "But there is no other option for us. It would be a travesty for the politics between the two nations to prevent these boys from growing up together."

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