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SALT LAKE CITY — A ban on Americans adopting children from Russia could leave disabled children at a special disadvantage, a Utah family says.
The Russian Parliament moved Wednesday toward finalizing a ban on Americans adopting Russian children. The upper house approved the measure unanimously days after the lower house voted overwhelmingly in favor of the ban. Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated he will sign the bill into law.
The bill, if passed into law, will dramatically alter the landscape of adoptions in Russia.
Forty-six Russian children have been cleared for adoption by Americans but if Putin signs the law, even those children will have to stay in Russia. Currently UNICEF reports that 740,000 children are without parental custody in Russia.
The law is said to be in retaliation to a U.S. law that would punish Russians accused of human rights violations, but in a statement Wednesday the U.S. State Department said it is "misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations."
"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," department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. "The bill passed by Russia's parliament would prevent many children from enjoying this opportunity."
One such family from Utah, brought home baby from Russia on Christmas Eve after nerve-wracking paperwork delays in Moscow.
The Fillmore family of American Fork welcomed 4-year-old Hazel into their family. She joins Anya, age 7, who the Fillmores also adopted from Russia, along with their five biological children.
"It's been tough but worth it," said Jeremy Fillmore, the girl's new father. "To have her here and be part of our family, it's great. We feel like we're complete and we're excited to have her."
Two years ago, Jeremy and Heather Fillmore found an online agency that helps Americans adopt children with disabilities. In Russia, by the time disabled children are age 4, they are sent to institutions where they receive no education and no attention.
Despite the months of red tape for each new daughter, the Fillmores are very upset for other parents who will be affected by the Russian ban.
"We know a lot of families who have already been to Russia and have met their children," Heather Fillmore said. "You just don't know how, you feeling like they're your children. And the thoughts of them being locked away in an institution for the rest of their lives is almost too hard to even bear."
With their seven children, they say they have much to be grateful for this Christmas season. They plan to support other American families who are willing to open their homes and their hearts to Russian children with disabilities.
"It doesn't make any sense that the children are the ones that are suffering because of retaliation in politics," Heather Fillmore said.