Dear President Obama,
I am writing to alert you to an urgent concern regarding adoption. Congress recently passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act and President Obama signed it into law on December 14, 2012.
In response, Russia's legislature has voted to pass the Dima Yakovlev Law, named after a Russian-born child who died in the care of his adoptive parents. This law would ban from visiting Russia anyone involved in the case of Dima Yakovlev or other Russian born adopted children who died in the United States. What is of most urgent concern is that a recent amendment to this law would also end Intercountry Adoption between Russia and the United States. I believe it is absolutely important to protect the rights of every child and there should be a measured response to the death of each of these children. We mourn the loss of these Russian-born children as they were dear to us as American children. However, it is important to note that these children are a very small minority. Many thousands of Russian born children have been adopted and thrive in the love and care of their American families. If intercountry adoption between Russia and the United States were to close, many thousands of children would likely languish in orphanages instead of finding their way to safe, loving, permanent families in the United States.
Now, let me tell you our story. Our son, Alexander Artur, came home to his forever family in May of 2011. My sweet boy was born in Vladivostok, Russia and never left the grounds of the baby hospital where he was born. He lived with seven other children in a hallway of the hospital. let be me clear about that, Mr. President. A hallway. Take a moment and walk out into your hallway, certainly much larger and brighter than where my precious son spent the first 24 months of his life. He ate his meals in a tiny room off this hallway. He slept in a crib pushed up against other cribs in another tiny room. He played in the hallway, with windows too high for him to see the world outside. He was malnourished and sickly when we were awarded the honor to be his parents by a Russian judge.
I am not going to tell you that this past year and a half has been easy. As adoptive parents we knew what work lay ahead of us to allow our new son to come into his own, so to speak. And while we still have a ways to go, our tiny little Russian born child is now a strong three year old boy. He loves to sing and dance. He loves animals, especially monkeys. He has nearly caught up developmentally to his American born peers. He is physically healthy and thriving. And our whole family is better off. My children, both internationally adopted, are the light of my life. Both of them have seen so much loss in their young lives, both have left the countries they were born in to become a part of a forever family.
I cannot help but think about all the children left behind. When we visited the orphanage in Russia these children would flock to us. They were intrigued by our camera, by the toys we had brought. They wanted to be held and loved. I watched them play with broken toys. I heard them crying as they ate food that was too hot to swallow but they were so hungry they didn't care. I saw worn clothes on one child show up on another one the next day. I saw caregivers with only so much time and energy to give. Tell me, is this better? Is it worth it? These laws will keep those children living in that small hallway, and, even worse, will keep many more in crowded orphanages throughout Russia.
If intercountry adoption between Russia and the United States closes, other children, like my little Alex, will not be able to find their way to the many U.S. families willing and waiting to call them their own.
Please contact President Putin of Russia and ask him not to allow this amendment to become part of Russian law. U.S. diplomacy at this time is essential to save the lives of many young Russians waiting for a family of their own.