HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. – An Oregon couple now wonders what will happen to children in Russian orphanages since that country froze any more adoptions from American parents.
After several controversial adoptions with American families, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children, part of a harsh response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
That has many worried about all the Russian children still in the system, including a Portland couple who say their adoption has given one little girl a whole new outlook on life.
Kim and Dan La Pointe have seen firsthand how adoptions can change lives. They've been to an orphanage and witnessed how these children live. While they say caretakers work hard, they just don't have adequate resources. And with so many families, like theirs here in America hoping to help, they'd hate to see children suffer because of an international issue.
The La Pointes adopted Allie, a child from south of Moscow. When they took one look at her when she was a baby, they knew it was fate.
"She was named for my mom, too," said Kim. "Aliana was my mom's name. Her birthday was a day before my mom's and her Russian name was Yellana. So we knew she was the one."
The La Pointes first met her in an orphanage after another little girl they hoped to adopt didn't work out. It took three trips to Russia, almost three years, paperwork and a court date to adopt Allie and bring her home to Oregon.
Welcoming the 15-month-old into their growing family was a life so different than the one she'd known.
The La Pointes described Russian orphanages as if children were in a production line at a large company.
"(It was like) one kid here: feed, feed, feed – next (child) – feed, feed, feed," said Dan.
"It was very regimented, very scheduled and a lot of time just left in cribs alone," Kim said.
More than six years later, Allie is bright, likes to dress up and go to plays like any kid. They are the things the La Pointes worry others will miss out on if Putin signs the bill.
"That might be the saddest thing," said Dan. "That some of them might not make it out of the orphanage because of less opportunities to be adopted."
"I hate to think that this is more (a) political thing than being really concerned about the welfare of the children," Kim said.
One adoption agency in the Portland area told KATU News it discontinued its program several years ago because even then it was difficult to coordinate adoptions. KATU News couldn’t find any agencies in the Portland area that currently have a direct Russian adoption program.
Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children since the fall of the Soviet Union. Thursday's drastic move happened after Russian officials focused on 19 cases of children who died after being adopted by Americans.
They also considered the fury that erupted in 2010 after a 7-year-old boy named Artyom was sent back to Russia alone by his American adoptive mother carrying a note saying he had become too difficult to handle.
Children's rights advocates say the new ban is playing politics.