The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 18, 2014

Russia's ban on adoptions by Americans holds firm

(Continued)

It took years for the couple to conclude that Julia had a condition known as reactive attachment disorder that limited her sociability and emotional outreach.

"We've made it our life's work to make her as grounded and stable and attached as possible," Traster said. "But these children are different... The journey is complicated. It's heartbreaking at times."

While Traster would like Russia to lift the ban, she also hopes the dispute helps educate more Americans about the challenges of adopting children with emotional difficulties, as was often the case with Russian orphans.

"Often the prospective adoptive parents are unprepared and under-schooled about how to raise these children who've begun their lives in orphanages," she said, urging specialized training for teachers and pediatricians as well as for parents.

Jane Waldman and Mark Braverman of Levittown, N.Y., adopted a nearly 4-year-old girl from a Russian orphanage in 2004 despite warnings that the child, Elaina, had fetal alcohol syndrome.

"We fell in love with her on our first trip," Waldman said. "Even with challenges, we wanted her."

Over the ensuing years, tutors, behavioral therapists and speech therapists worked with Elaina, helping her overcome many of the impediments that had delayed her development.

Now in 7th grade, Elaina is thriving, according to her mother, with many friends and a spot on a local swim team.

Waldman is frustrated that stories of troubled adoptions in the U.S. have gained prominence in Russia, while less attention is paid to the fact that most adoptions of Russian children go well.

"Yes, there are some horror stories," she said. "But Americans, properly screened, can provide wonderful, loving homes for those children who otherwise have little hope."

Elaina, answering questions by email, said she hopes for a career working with animals, perhaps as a veterinary technician.

As for the ban, Elaina wrote, "I think it is sad because I want other Russian kids to have the same chance at finding a great, forever family in America as I did."

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