Alan and Kathy Carda feel blessed. Not just because they have a new baby, but because they were able to leave Russia with him over the weekend.
The St. Paul couple might be one of the last in the United States to bring home a Russian child if President Vladimir Putin goes ahead with his threat to sign a law banning Americans from adopting orphans in his country.
The Cardas arrived in the Twin Cities from Moscow with their 18-month-old son, Georgiy, on Sunday, despite Russian officials already slowing down or shutting off adoptions with the law poised to be enacted. "There was always this uncertainty whether the police were going to show up and take our child away," Alan Carda said. "It wasn't until the plane left Russian airspace that we thought nothing was going to happen."
In Minnesota, among the states with the most adoptions of Russian-born children, reaction to the proposed ban has been harsh. Critics say the children are being used as political pawns in a battle of wills between Washington and Moscow.
"It certainly feels like the adoptions are caught in the middle," said Maureen Warren, president of the Children's Home Society and Family Services, which has about 20 families in the process of adopting from Russia. "It's certainly a time of great uncertainty ... a very stressful time for them."
The Cardas can relate.
The couple were in Russia in mid-December and almost immediately began hearing rumors about the possible ban as retaliation for recent U.S. legislation aimed at Russian officials allegedly involved in the death of anti-corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. Their concerns intensified when the ban was passed by the Russian parliament.
An estimated 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans in the past 20 years, about the same time frame that the Children's Home Society has been in that country. About 20 to 30 children are placed in Minnesota each year by the agency. It's estimated that 740,000 children are in Russian orphanages.
Warren said there have been times during the past two decades when Russian officials suspended adoptions or slowed them down, but nothing to this extent.
"There are Minnesota families who are waiting to give Russian children the loving homes they deserve," Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday in a statement. "These children ... will be the real victims of this ban."
"It's heartbreaking for the children and the families," Kathy Carda said Thursday. "It does look [like Putin is] going to go through with it."
That means limbo for families in Minnesota and elsewhere who are in the process of adopting from Russia. Klobuchar's office on Thursday said that a number of families from the state have already been in contact about what they should do.
"It's very disheartening to hear," said one Minnesota woman who is in the process of adopting a child in Russia.
She and her husband had recently traveled to Russia to meet their child for the first time and now face the possibility of never seeing him again. "It's tough," said the woman, who did not want her name used publicly for fear it could hurt her chances of adopting the child.
Phil Almeroth of Coon Rapids, who with his wife adopted a girl from Russia about 20 years ago, said Putin is using the children as "human shields."
Jay White of Deephaven, who also adopted a Russian baby more than a decade ago, described what Russia is doing as "horrible."
But White, like many others, was not surprised. "Periodically, Russia goes through one of these kinds of moratoriums where they seem to use the children as a means of making a political statement," White said.
Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281