By David Crary Associated Press
NEW YORK For the Zukors in Maryland, and hundreds of other families across the U.S., there were anxious and confusing moments Thursday as reports surfaced – and then were questioned – regarding a freeze of adoptions from Russia.
“You’ve got to expect the unexpected,” said Christie Zukor, who along with her husband, Ken, adopted four siblings from Russia in 2007 and has a pending application to adopt their 15-year-old half-sister.
They are among an estimated 3,000 U.S. families in various stages of adopting children from Russia.
Word spread quickly through that community that a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, said adoptions by Americans had been suspended pending U.S.-Russian negotiations on an adoption treaty. Russia has stepped up demands for such a treaty following last week’s incident in which a Tennessee woman sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Russia on a plane by himself with a note saying he was violent and severely mentally ill.
Within hours after Nesterenko’s briefing, the reported suspension was cast into doubt. Russia’s Education Ministry, which oversees international adoptions, said it had no knowledge of a freeze. So did a spokeswoman for the Kremlin’s children’s rights ombudsman.
In Washington, the State Department at one point said there was no suspension, then said it was seeking clarification from Russian officials. “Right now, to be honest, we’ve received conflicting information,” department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
The State Department is sending a high-level delegation to Moscow next week to discuss the controversy and a possible adoption agreement.
“There are many thousands of Russian children who are not adopted by Russian families,” Crowley said. “We have the same objective as Russia has: to find loving, safe and permanent homes, some of which would be here in the United States.”
For the Zukors, who live in Havre de Grace, Md., a suspension could dash their hopes of traveling to a Russian orphanage within the next two months to bring home 15-year-old Marina, the half-sister of the three girls and one boy they adopted in 2007.
“We have no doubt we’ll bring Marina home one day – though it may not be as soon as we would like,” said Christie Zukor. “But I don’t know how patient I’d be if this was my first adoption.”