Webster Groves Family Cut off; from Russian Baby by New Law

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Brent and Kathleen Duncan, of Webster Groves, flew to Russia five weeks ago to meet the girl they thought would become their familys newest addition: a 19-month-old baby named Nika.

The Duncans expected to bring Nika home in February and even bought a bigger house to accommodate her and their three children: Luke, 9, Camille, 6, and Walker, 4 all adopted from Russia.

Everything was on track until last week. Now theyre caught in a diplomatic feud.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law that would ban all U.S. adoptions of Russian children, despite a chorus of international criticism.

The move, widely seen as retaliation for a new U.S. law that imposes travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers, has left the Duncans in limbo, along with about four dozen other families nationwide who also have been to Russia to meet their prospective children.

I dont feel like we are the victims of this ban, Kathleen said. The kids are the victims.

The Duncans are still clinging to the hope that a recent bilateral adoption agreement between the two countries will allow them to continue with the adoption.

The agreement, which took effect in November, stipulates either side must give 12 months notice if it is to be terminated.

Maybe there is a slim chance this could work out, Duncan said.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department in a statement urged the Russian government to allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parents to finish the necessary legal procedures so they can join their families.

But that appears unlikely. Russian childrens rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said 52 children who were in the pipeline for U.S. adoption would remain in Russia.

The recent bilateral agreement also includes several provisions for post-adoption monitoring of Russian children in the United States. Sue Gainor, national board chair of Families for Russian and Ukranian Adoption, said its unclear whether those measures would still be enforced.

Its all pretty murky at this point, she said.

Kelli Stuart, who moved from Ballwin to Tampa, Fla. more than a year ago, started her adoption process with her husband, Lee, in June, but the couple hadnt yet traveled to Russia to meet a child. She, too, was holding on to the possibility the Russians wouldnt want to give up the ability to monitor children in the U. …