Russian child adopted by Henrico family concerned about possible ban

Published: Dec. 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2013 at 10:57 PM EST
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Controversy from overseas is hitting the states, after a bill aims to stop the adoption of Russian children in the U.S. Activists fear if this bill becomes law, hundreds of Russian children will never be adopted.

A Henrico family says they were one of the first families to adopt a child from Russia. One of the most important talks Mary Burton has had with her daughter, Julia, was about adopting her from Russia.

"They're very good about talking about my heritage and where I come from," said Julia. She was 5-months-old when she was adopted in the early 90s.

A bill going before Russian President Vladimir Putin will ban U.S. families from adopting Russian children. Putin says the bill is in response to a new U.S. law that puts penalties on Russian humans rights violators. Opponents say the bill puts thousands of children at risk.

According to UNICEF, there are thousands of children without guardians in Russia. Over the past two decades, 60,000 Russian children were adopted by U.S. families.

"I think the politics might be getting in the way of the welfare of the children," said Mary Burton.

Rebecca Ricardo works for the lifetime adoption resource in Henrico. Her agency does background checks and support services for families who adopt locally and internationally.

"If there are more children than there are families available, and there are families from other countries, not just the United States, who are willing to adopt, certainly the needs of the children ought to be paramount," she said.

The Burtons say they hope the door to adopt children from Russia doesn't close on other American families, so other children can have opportunities just like Julia.

"I've had a great life, very successful," said Julia Burton. "I'm just very thankful to have them as my family."

Supporters argue the bill is about protection. According to U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael McFauls, there have been 19 reported deaths of adopted Russian children in the U.S. since the 1990s. Supporters say the change encourages more adoptions by Russian families.

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