North Richland Hills couple clings to hope of adopting Russian child

Donna Thomas won't give up hope.

The North Richland Hills woman and her husband, who are trying to adopt a 5-year-old girl from Russia, were shattered by the recent news that Russia has shut down adoptions with the United States.

She knows that her prospective daughter -- a beautiful blue-eyed little girl with Down syndrome -- is waiting for her in Russia.

Thomas and her husband, Rob, who had wanted to have their daughter home by March, are clinging to the hope that officials will be persuaded to let adoption cases already under way proceed.

"We feel confident that God called us to adopt this little one," said Donna, 51, who works in preschool ministry. "We pray for the officials in Russia to have softened hearts and allow us to bring Ana Faith home so she can have the love of a family and the many intense therapies that she needs to reach her potential.

"We hold out hope that she will be home soon."

Last month, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans as of Jan. 1. The move could keep dozens of children already in the process of being adopted from finding their forever homes in America.

Since 1999, U.S. families have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children.

Many people hope that the State Department can negotiate a compromise, perhaps allowing the adoptions that are furthest along to be completed.

"We are hoping [this is] not forever," said Jennifer Lanter, spokeswoman for the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth. "It is our understanding that this ban is very controversial among the Russian people.

"We are hoping that our two countries can work out a solution to this ban that benefits the most vulnerable -- the orphans of Russia."


Some say the shutdown is payback for a recent U.S. law, the Magnitsky Act, that puts U.S. restrictions on human-rights violators in Russia.

The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who uncovered a massive tax fraud case in his country and was beaten to death in a detention center.

The act prevents officials believed to have been involved in Magnitsky's death from entering the United States.

Putin called the measure a "purely political, unfriendly act."

All of this came after U.S. and Russian officials had crafted an agreement paving the way toward improving adoptions from Russia.

It required more training of American couples and longer post-adoption reports to show how the children are adjusting to their new families.

"The two countries, from an adoption standpoint, were probably in better sync than they were in years," said Frank Garrott, president of the Gladney Center.

"Then this unrelated law gets passed and the Russian government reacts this way. What they've done is deny these children the right to live in a family ... [which is] a very basic human right."

For years, Russia has been a leading adoption partner for American families.

"It has been on the decline, and yet it has still been a reasonably stable program," Garrott said.

Interaction between the countries had grown tense in recent years. Critics in Russia cited 19 cases, dating to the 1990s, of children who died after being adopted by Americans.

In 2010, a Tennessee woman sent her adoptive son alone on a plane back to Moscow with a note saying that he was mentally unstable and that she no longer wanted to parent the 7-year-old.

Russian officials called the boy's return a "monstrous deed" and threatened to freeze U.S.-Russia adoptions.

What doesn't get as much attention are all the adoptions that go right.

'God put her

in our hearts'

Donna and Rob Thomas -- a 53-year-old sales manager -- have three grown daughters ages 20 to 25.

Last year, they "felt God's call" in their lives.

As they looked into adopting a child from Russia, they were matched with a beautiful girl who has a joyful heart and a big personality.

By September, they were in Russia, visiting the girl they believe in their hearts is their daughter.

Ana Faith loves stickers, is ticklish, and has the sweetest smile and the most contagious laugh.

"We feel like God put her in our hearts," Donna Thomas said.

"We just felt like we were led to do this."

The Thomases' court documents were to be submitted this month after the Russian holidays -- most government offices there should have reopened Wednesday -- and the couple hoped to travel to Russia for their court appearance in February.

If all went well, they hoped to bring their daughter home in March.

But now they must wait to see whether Russian officials will consider letting adoptions that are already under way continue.

"The thought of not bringing her home is very devastating," Donna Thomas said. "We won't know anything until mid-January.

"It's going to be a long couple of weeks."

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution expressing disappointment over the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions.

"Given the immensity of the challenges facing the Russian government, one would think they would be taking every possible action to decrease the number of Russian children living without families," said Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

The coalition is among groups working with congressional leaders and the State Department in asking Russian leaders to consider allowing in-progress adoptions to continue.

"At this time, the Russian government has provided no details on how the law will be implemented," according to a statement by the State Department.

"The Department of State has no information on whether the Russian government intends to permit the completion of any pending adoptions."

In limbo

At the Thomas home, as Donna and Rob await news about Ana Faith, her room has already been painted pink.

A quilt made by Donna's mother decorates the bed.

And clothes, hair bows, pajamas and toys -- everything a girl needs -- already fill the room.

A sign waiting to be hung over her bed reads: "Angels danced the day you were born."

"It's sad to go in her room," Donna Thomas said.

"There are a lot of hopes and dreams we had for her."

But she and her husband aren't giving up.

"We're going to take it one day at a time and see what happens," she said. "We are very much hoping since we found her, and have the intent to adopt her, that maybe they will allow us to finish the process.

"We are hoping and praying we will be able to bring her home."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley