Originally Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2012, 7:24 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 29, 2012, 11:34 am

Q-C families say Russian adoption ban hurts kids

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By Anthony Watt, awatt@qconline.com

Photo: Submitted
Liz and Hector Lareau pose for a photo in Vladivostok Russia, in April of 2001. The Lareaus had just adopted Marina and Andrei, both 3, days earlier.
Photo: Submitted
Marina and Andrei Lareau, 14 when this photo was taken in April of this year, with siblings Lucy and Gabriel.

Marina Lareau's life is in Moline, but part of her heart remains in her native Russia.

Marina was almost 4 years old and living in a Russian orphanage when she was adopted by Hector and Liz Lareau 11 years ago. Now, at 15, she does well in school, runs track and volunteers with children at the YMCA with her adopted brother Andrei, whom the Lareaus also adopted from Russia.

"I had a very, very lucky chance to have a new opportunity to be who I am," Marina said Friday.

She said it's heart-breaking that other Russian orphans won't have the same opportunity.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian children. The law, which takes effect Tuesday, is expected to interrupt the potential adoptions of more than 50 children.

The restriction is believed to be a response to a new U.S. law seeking sanctions for alleged human rights violations by the Russian government.

UNICEF estimates there are about 740,000 Russian children not in parental custody, but only about 18,000 Russians on the waiting list to adopt a child. Currently, the U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children; more than 60,000 have come to America over the past two decades.

Terry Herbig and Terri Gleize were part of a 1999 humanitarian aid trip that brought toys, medicine, toothbrushes and other items to Russian orphans. They said the children they met were starved for attention and affection.

"They just hung all over us," Ms. Gleize said. The orphanage staffdid their best, she said, but the childrens' meals often were small bowls of soup and potatoes. Many of the children were developing teeth problems because of their diet, she said.

Many of the orphans had disabilities and were left to the system because of them, according to Mr. Herbig who documented the trip as a photojournalist with The Rock Island Argus and The Dispatch in Moline.

He called the adoption ban "absurd."

The Lareaus saidthe orphanages they saw in Russia were poor. Although the staff seemed to care and did what they could for their wards, the children didn't have much, the couple said.

Liz Lareaus said she believes the current need for adoptive parents is probably as great as it was when they were in Russia. Orphans are going to lose a chance for a better life, she said.

She said she's hopeful the adoption ban may be lifted. She noted this is not the first time adoptions have been the target of politics.About the time they were trying to adopt, new rules made getting Marina and Andrei more difficult.

Hector Lareaus called the ban a tragic example of political gamesmanship and spite.

"The victims are children," he said.

Marina Lareau sees herself as a bit of an ambassador from Russia. She does not want the adoption ban to define people's opinion of the whole nation.

It was a bad decision, she said, and is "closing Russia up."

"They need to open up," Marina said.




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