Russian Ban on U.S. Adoptions Would Hurt Children, Family Says
ANCHORAGE - One in four children adopted by Alaska families comes from Russia. But if a new bill, which Russian lawmakers passed Wednesday, gets signed into law, that could all change.
The Russian Parliament voted to ban American adoption of Russian children. Russia has roughly 700,000 orphans. The ban has been called political retaliation for a new American law that prevents Russians accused of human rights violations from getting visas.
The Gionets found this development to be heartbreaking, because they have invested a large portion of their life into helping Russian orphans. Their family is far from traditional.
"Adoption, it comes from not a perfect situation," said mother of 8 Susan Gionet. "A family is broken for some reason."
Susan and Paul Gionet couldn’t imagine their lives without their eight children – six of whom are adopted and five of those are Russian.
"For us it was… big shock," said Paul Gionet. "We think it is probably a political move that has been happening, but the children are caught in the middle."
In the last 15 years the Gionets have been to Russia 37 times to help in various orphanages. They said the conditions are far from optimal.
"The conditions are friendly with the orphanage directors and workers," said Paul Gionet. "They give really good care. The conditions of the structures are really poor, mildly on the edge of poverty."
Julie was adopted when she was seven. She said life in an orphanage wasn't so bad.
"When you don't know anything different, you don't feel like you are deprived of things or that you're missing out on things that you should have, because you don't know you should have them," said 23-year-old Julie Gionet.
She is the middle child of three sisters who were all adopted into the Gionet family. She said more children should have the opportunities that her and her sisters have had.
"I think it's going to be a disservice to the Russian children," said Julie Gionet, sitting next to her parents, with her curly blonde hair resting on her shoulders. "I think that if anyone wants to love and care for a child they should be able to do that."
The Gionets said it all starts with love and opportunity.
"We sat each one of them down and we told them 'you are never going to leave us,’" said Paul Gionet. "‘You will always be our family.’"