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St. Louis Post Dispatch - Russia Shamefully Uses Children As Political Pawns

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By Senator Roy Blunt

When the Quincey family adopted 14-year-old Sergey and his younger brother Val from Russia, the boys did not speak English. As the oldest son of two alcoholic parents, Sergey was faced with a number of challenges, but he set out to learn as much as possible when he arrived at his new home. With the help of his parents and his teachers, Sergey quickly studied the language and successfully graduated from high school in Branson.

Today, Sergey is married with children of his own. When we spoke recently, Sergey said "all of my dreams became possible" on the day that he was adopted by the Quincey family.

Sergey's is just one of the amazing stories of Russian children who have found forever homes in Missouri and across America. Just a few weeks ago, the D'Orazio family welcomed their 3-year-old son, Jace, home to St. Louis. Missouri state Sen. John Lamping's family made three visits to Russia to bring Dmitri home to Ladue in 2005. The Sticklens expanded their family in Joplin when they adopted sons Chance in 1998 and Billy in 2001 from Ryazan. The Benes family took five trips to Siberia to bring their children, Brock and Bliss, home to St. Louis.

When Taylor -- a 9-month-old living in an orphanage in Rostov-na-Donu -- came home with the Davis family to St. Louis, she faced a number of challenges and special needs. Fifteen years later, Taylor's mother, Sandy, helps run a nonprofit organization that provides resources, educational opportunities and support networks for other adoptive families in the area.

My wife, Abby, and I adopted our son, Charlie, from Russia. Until the time we brought him home, Charlie had spent every day of his young life in an orphanage or hospital. Today, he is a healthy, energetic, quick-witted 8-year-old who loves baseball and roots for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Unfortunately, the Russian government recently made an outrageous and shameful move to use children like these as political pawns by banning all adoptions by American families. By signing this law, Russian President Vladimir Putin has put approximately 50 families who are in the process of adopting in jeopardy. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Russian children who need good homes are now in danger of growing up in an orphanage until they are turned out on the streets at age 16.

The Wellmans in Hannibal already made two trips to Russia and spent time in court to adopt 1-year-old Daniel, whom they planned to bring home next week to join his new brother Timothy, a 9-year-old who was adopted from Russia in 2004. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported that the Duncan family of Webster Groves expected to bring home their 19-month-old daughter, Nika, to join her three new siblings next month -- all of whom were also adopted from Russia.

"The kids are the victims," Kathleen Duncan told the Post-Dispatch.

She's absolutely right. There are more than 700,000 Russian children in orphanages today -- many of whom are ill or have other special needs. American families adopt more Russian children than those of any other country, and just two months ago, we passed a bilateral agreement to protect this adoption process -- an agreement that President Putin has blatantly violated.

This politically motivated ban came in response to Congress' decision to hold Russian officials responsible for human rights violations as part of the bipartisan Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations bill, which we passed in December. Frankly, President Putin's behavior is not worthy of the credit we just gave the Russians when we opened trade opportunities between our countries last month.

Instead, this outrageous move demonstrates how weak Putin's regime is that it chooses to punish America by preventing loving families from helping Russia's neediest children. Perhaps that's why there is opposition to the law within Russia itself -- including several national officials and more than 100,000 dissenters who have weighed in through an online petition.

The Russians must go back and honor the agreement they just signed in November, and our first priority must be to bring the children who are already matched with their new families to America as soon as possible. I recently co-sponsored a resolution urging the Russian government to reconsider this law immediately, and I joined 15 of my colleagues in a letter to President Putin calling on him to honor our recent adoption agreement.

I will continue to fight to resolve this issue for Missourians and other American families as quickly as possible. Apparently, in Putin's Russia, the welfare of corrupt officials comes before the care of their most vulnerable children.


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