MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The bill is part of the country's increasingly confrontational stance with the West and has angered some Russians, who argue it victimizes children to make a political point.
UNICEF estimates that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia.
The law also blocks dozens of Russian children now in the process of being adopted by American families from leaving the country. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children. More than 60,000 of them have been taken in by Americans over the past two decades.
It is retaliation for an American law that calls for sanctions against Russian officials deemed human rights violators.
The move is bad news not just for Russian children who need a home, but the prospective parents who are willing to open up their lives to those kids.
"I couldn't love them anymore, if I'd given birth to them. They are my world," said Amy Lucas.
Amy Lucas has five boys, four who have down syndrome and three of them she adopted from Russia.
"I found out that these children are abandoned in hospitals. Parents sign over parental rights and just pretend like they were never born," said Lucas.
One of her sons, Liam came home from Russia last January. She requested a special needs boy between the ages of 5 and 8 who had been sent from the orphanage to an institution. Because of an operation he had as an infant, Lucas said Liam had never been fed solid food and came home malnurished.
"I brought him home and he had just turned 7 [years-old] like a few days prior and he weighed 29 pounds," Lucas said. "He had severe periodonal disease which you just don't see in a child and gingivitis."
Katy Case, adoption specialist with Hands Across the Water, also adopted two special needs boys from Russia.
"It's just really heartbreaking to know that we won't be able to. I hope it changes, but at this point, we can't do anymore adoptions with Russia," said Case.
Now in school like his brothers, Liam uses sign language, plays and lives like any 7-year-old boy. Lucas says she's upset that other children like Liam might not get the same chance.
"Even one of the first questions they asked with Liam, because he doesn't talk, is why do you want him? We have better children than him," Lucas said. "It made me even more determined to get him out of there as soon as possible."