Since December 2012 the Russian government has banned all adoptions to the United States.
The ban inspired Laura Ingraham, known to many people as the spirited conservative talk-show host and Fox News contributor, to found the Adopt a New Attitude Project to raise awareness about adoption.
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"I didn’t really think all that much about adoption until I adopted," Ingraham told the Free Beacon. "When I understood that Vladimir Putin and the Russian Duma, the legislature, was considering this adoption ban about a year ago and making it increasingly difficult for Americans to adopt there. I thought to myself, wait a second we’ve got to do something about this."
Ingraham is the adoptive mother of three children. Her two sons were both adopted from Russia. The oldest of the bunch, and the only girl, was adopted from Guatemala.
Adoption is one of the few issues that transcends partisan lines—even in Washington, D.C.
The Congress Coalition on Adoption Initiative (CCAI), a nonpartisan organization that aims to "educate policymakers on issues related to adoption and foster care," has 143 members.
When asked about Ingraham’s project, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.), Senate co-chair of the CCAI, lauded it as a "beautiful initiative" that "uses the stories of Russian children who have found loving families in the United States to speak truth to power."
"Its message to Russian President Putin is clear: end your ban on adoptions by American families. Millions of children, in Russia and all over the world, live in institutions or worse, without the love and protection of a family, and the number grows every day. Laura and I share a vision of the United States as a country that can lead the way in turning this around," Landrieu said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon.
To that end, Landrieu has sponsored Children In Families First, to "better [align] the right Federal agencies" to "support children whose best interests are served through intercountry adoption."
The Adopt a New Attitude Project is not a lobbying organization. Rather, it seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of adoption, international and domestic.
"[Children] want families. They want Mom or Dad, they want someone to love them forever, and institutions can’t give that," Ingraham said.
The Russian adoption ban is largely regarded as retaliation for the United States’ Sergei Magnitsky Act, a law that prohibits 18 Russians associated with the death of Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower, and other human rights abuses from entering the country and using the U.S. banking system.
The adoption ban was part of a vast reprisal that included Russia’s own travel ban and economic sanctions of 18 U.S. citizens they say engaged in human rights violations against Russians.
Some of those listed were U.S. law enforcement officials involved in the prosecutions of Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to bring cocaine into the United States.
The ban not only prevents future adoptions, but also halted the adoption of at least 330 Americans who were in the final stages of adopting Russian children.
One of them is the Hecker family from Scottsdale, Ariz. Maureen Hecker said she and her husband were in the process of adopting a 10-month-old girl when the ban was implemented.
"We visited her over Thanksgiving last year. We had seen her once and then we were supposed to go back in January for our court date … we would’ve gone back in February to bring her home," Hecker told the Free Beacon.
"I had a baby shower a week after we got home from visiting her. So her room was all completely done and painted pink. Her crib was set up, everything."
About a week after her shower Hecker’s mother called to say she’d heard that Russia was considering an adoption ban.
"I remember it so clearly," Hecker recounted. "I was driving to work and my Mom had called me and said one of her friends saw on the news or read somewhere that Russia was thinking about banning adoptions. And honestly at that time, because over the years there’s been so much back and forth with Russia and the United States, I didn’t even really think twice about it. I thought, oh well it’s just them saying stuff it’s not going to affect us."
The adoption agency also said the Heckers would be able to bring their daughter home, even if a ban was implemented, because of a clause in a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia.
The agreement "Regarding the Cooperation in Adoption of Children" applies to "adoptions where both spouses, or the individual (if unmarried), have seen and observed the child in person prior to adoption." It further stipulates specific requirements for the dissolution of an adoption.
"In the back of our minds we truly thought, okay we’re still going to get to go through because we’ve already met her. I remember waking up Dec. 28 and my husband looked on the Internet, and he said Putin signed the law. And that day, I just remember that day, it was horrific."
It wasn’t until the beginning of February that the Heckers officially found out the adoption would not be allowed to proceed. At that point, they filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.
Stories like the Heckers' are the driving force behind Adopt A New Attitude.
When asked what she hoped people would take away from her project, Ingraham said, "You’ll never probably meet a more grateful child than someone who’s actually had the chance of a real life. … Children everywhere who are in need, who are at night alone, or crying—we can’t be deaf to their voices."
"I hope we understand what the great light of adoption [is]," she continued. "Sometimes you talk about it people are like ‘oh yeah adoptions great, I get it,’ it’s more than that. These are angels, these are little angels and they need us."