Ban on Americans adopting Russian children affects Tucsonan

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Ban on Americans adopting Russian children affects Tucsonan

CREATED Jan. 3, 2013

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

Web Producer: Mekita Rivas

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - There is nothing quite like the love for a child -- a love hundreds of American families were so close to knowing. But as of yesterday, Americans can no longer adopt children from Russia. 

Backers of the Russian bill say American adoptive parents have been abusive. But now the ban is receiving criticism from U.S. and Russian citizens -- and many families are left hoping the ban will be lifted. 

Nine On Your Side's Valerie Cavazos spoke with one Tucson woman who who believes the ban will keep thousands of Russian orphans from receiving care they need to survive -- something she knows first hand.

It's a highly charged situation in both countries.

Critics of the adoption ban say it would keep thousands of children -- especially those with disabilities -- in Russia's orphanage system.

Nine On Your Side sat down with one young woman -- born in a Russian orphanage -- who has called Tucson her home practically her entire life.

She says the ban should be lifted, but she and other experts say parents need to know everything -- before they adopt a child -- from any country

"I'm a little heartbroken," said 21-year-old Aarika Shaffer. She doesn't remember when she was adopted from an orphanage in Russia -- she was only 2 and half years old.

But she said she's grateful her mother, Debra, who brought her home to the U.S. 

"I love her. She's an angel. She saved me," Shaffer said. 

She only had months to live -- suffering from spina bifada -- and fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS. 

"If they had done this a year before, I wouldn't be alive right now, experiencing this beautiful life," she said. 

Shaffer said she believes other Russian ophans should be given the same chance.

"It's sad if there are children in other countries who need home too -- any child, every child deserves a home," said Teresa Kellerman, the director of the FAS Community Resource Center. Although she believes every child deserves a good loving home -- she says some parents, including Aarika's mother, are or were not aware of the full implications of caring for a child with FAS.  

"And this can be devastating to a family," Kellerman said. "Very devastating to the individual, to the family and the community."

Shaffer said she agrees that parents need to be more aware when adopting any child -- whether from Russia or anywhere else.

"If you're adopting a child, learn everything," she said.