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Putin ready to sign adoption ban; Pittsburgh area agencies fighting back

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 7:16 p.m.

MOSCOW — Defying a storm of domestic and international criticism, Russia moved toward finalizing a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, as Parliament's upper house voted unanimously on Wednesday in favor of a measure that President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign into law.

The bill is the Kremlin's retaliation against an American law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be violators of human rights.

Dozens of Russian children close to being adopted by American families will almost certainly be blocked from leaving the country. The law cuts off the main international adoption route for Russian children stuck in often dismal orphanages: Tens of thousands of Russian youngsters have been brought to the United States in the past 20 years. There are about 740,000 children without parental care in Russia, according to UNICEF.

“Clearly, the victims here are going to be the kids, kids who could have found a family forever are going to remain stuck in the orphanage,” said Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh.

Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh assists with international adoptions only by doing a home study of the parents who want to adopt a child to see what kind of parents they would be.

Rauscher said she was surprised by Russia's action.

“It's really sad for couples who are in the adoption process and are looking to bring a child to their home and will no longer have that opportunity for whatever reason,” she said.

The State Department said it regrets the Russian Parliament's decision.

“Since 1992, American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes, providing them with an opportunity to grow up in a family environment,” spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. “The bill passed by Russia's parliament would prevent many children from enjoying this opportunity. ... It is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations.”

Originally Russia's lawmakers cobbled together a more or less tit-for-tat response to the U.S. law, providing for travel sanctions and the seizure of financial assets in Russia of Americans determined to have violated the rights of Russians.

But it was expanded to include the adoption measure and call for a ban on any organizations that are engaged in political activities if they receive funding from American citizens or are determined to be a threat to Russia's interests.

The International Assistance Agency, an Oakmont-based nonprofit group that specializes in the adoption of Russian children, is encouraging Americans to sign a petition and go to the Russian Embassy in Washington to oppose the law.

“Together, we can stop this horrible law in its tracks, so that many, many other Russian children will be able to find their forever families here, in the United States,” the group said on its website.

Trib Total Media staff writer Bill Zlatos contributed to this report.

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