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Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:58PM - 648 Views

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If they had Vladimir Putin's ear, several local residents would ask the Russian president to change his mind about trying to ban American adoptions of Russian children.


I would say he's taking away all the opportunities for children to have better lives, said Maria Schramm, 23, of Williamsport, who was adopted when she was 13. I don't think he really cares about them. I think he's being selfish.


I think it's a bad idea to shut down adoption from Russia because kids should have a family, said Aloysha Ackerman, 15, of Dallas, who also was adopted a decade ago.


Earlier this week the Russian Parliament's upper house voted unanimously to support an adoption ban that Putin signed on Friday. The move is seen as the Kremlin's retaliation against a recently signed United States law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be violating human rights.


It's heartbreaking to think the (adoption) process could be stopped, said Maria's mom, Jane Schramm of Williamsport, explaining that American parents most likely have bonded with a Russian child well before the adoption is finalized.


She and her husband, Tom, first hosted Maria, or Masha, as they call her, during a six-week summer vacation when she was 12, and then visited her twice in Russia before she became their daughter the next year.


The worst-case scenario is children who will ‘age out' during this hold-up. I pray it's just a hold-up, said Gina Major Ackerman of Dallas, who with her husband, Bill, adopted four children from Russia, including Aloysha Ackerman.


60,000 Russians in U.S.

Since 1992, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, more than 60,000 Russian children have been welcomed into American families.


Some opponents of international adoption have argued a ban would protect children from possible mistreatment and encourage domestic adoption in Russia.


According to UNICEF, that country is home to about 740,000 children without parental care.


Based on what Jane Schramm saw on visits to her future daughter in Russia, she said the children at the orphanage appeared to be under-nourished, and the living standards less than ideal.


It was horrible, horrendous. There was an open bathroom next to her bedroom. It wasn't a toilet. It was an open hole. We could hardly stand the smell.


It didn't bother her at all, she added.


Indeed, Maria Schramm said she was not unhappy in her Russian orphanage, where she was one of 30 children assigned to one mother or nanny.


But her biological brother wanted to be adopted by a family from Danville, and that prompted her decision to take a leap of faith and agree to be adopted by a Williamsport family.


She was so homesick at first, but she's grateful her parents just kept loving her.


I am very glad I was adopted. If I were in Russia right now, I would probably never have gone to college, said Schramm, who earned a degree in finance from Bloomsburg University.


As for Aloysha, his mother Gina Ackerman believes if he had hadn't been adopted, his cleft palate might never have been repaired.


Still, she said, the sick-child orphanage where he spent his early years seemed to be staffed with kind, patient caregivers, perhaps because of the children's health concerns.


Policy likely to stick

Terry Baugh of the Washington, D.C.,-based organization KIDSAVE, which facilitates international adoptions, thinks the Russian leaders aren't likely to change their minds.


She believes the best way to help Russian children now is to financially support Russian agencies that would help them in that country.


But Schramm believes there is hope the Kremlin could relent.


Maybe adopted children who are happy here should write to Putin or the Parliament, she suggested.


On Friday U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., fired off a letter of his own to Russian Ambassador Segey Kislyk, urging him to do all you can to convince President Putin and your government to reconsider.


It is shocking to me and my constituents that the Russian government would punish the most vulnerable members within its society, orphan children, with a futile effort at retaliation against an unrelated American law, Toomey wrote.


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