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January 12. 2013 11:32PM

Russian adoptions by NH folks hit bump


Wendy Rella, of Bedford, gets a hug from her 4-year-old daughter Alina who was adopted from Russia three years ago. Rella, and her husband Peter are hoping to adopt a son, also from Russia. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)
Wendy Rella of Bedford watches the video on her iPad at least once a day. It features a smiling 10-month-old boy whom she hopes to adopt from Russia.

"He is beautiful. There was a bond there between us immediately," said Rella, a Nashua hair stylist who went to Russia with her husband to meet the baby in December. "It was like he knew something, and we felt it, too. I just hope we can bring him home."

A complication in the adoption process has cropped up, however - a political issue between the United States and Russia that led last month to Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The uncertainty only grew late last week with Russia sending mixed signals.

Wendy and her husband, Peter, were just one of 10 couples in New Hampshire and 1,000 nationwide trying to adopt an orphan from Russia when the ban took effect Jan. 1. The law was a response to a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be violating human rights. New Hope for Children, based in Newmarket, specializes in helping families adopt Russian orphans. The nonprofit helps guide families through what can be a complicated and time-consuming process.

While aware the ban might be implemented, directors at New Hope were hopeful it wouldn't be.

"This was sort of a slap in the face to our families and the kids," said Dyan Ciccone, a member of the New Hope board of directors and spokesman for the adoption agency. "We were hopeful that President Putin would not sign it. We were hoping it was political posturing.."

Americans adopted 962 children from Russia in 2011, according to the U.S. State Department. Ciccone said her organization has been helping between 10 and 12 New Hampshire families a year adopt Russian children.

One potential adopter who may soon look at other countries to adopt from is Nancy Cronin of Bedford. A mother of three, she recently decided to adopt from Russia because that country has had less restrictive age requirements; the younger parent of an adopting couple can be no more than 48 years older than the child.

"I decided to go ahead and pursue this and literally the next day I heard about the ban," said Cronin. "It's like I wasn't meant to adopt from Russia. I still want to adopt, but I'm probably going to have to look somewhere else."



Not giving up



Wendy Rella says she has too much invested in the adoption process, financially and emotionally, to turn back now. Ciccone said most international adoptions cost more than $25,000 to complete.

Rella and her husband, a pharmacist at a Goffstown Rite Aid, decided to adopt from Russia because of his heritage.

"His mother is all Russian, and we found out my husband's grandmother was a Russian orphan," Rella said. "We wanted to have that ethnic background in our home."

The couple adopted a Russian girl, Alina, in 2009. Now 4, the girl wants a little brother in the house.

"I'm going to give him an Elmo and a duckie," said Alina. "I'm happy about it."

In November, the Rellas felt ready to adopt a 3-year-old boy, but his Russian parents backed out of the process.

"We said, 'OK, we'll handle this. God has a plan,'" Rella said.

About two weeks later, the 10-month-old became available. "It was like it was meant to be," said Rella.

Peter and Wendy completed a new round of paperwork and went to Russia in December to meet the boy.

"We consider him our son already," said Rella, who works as a stylist at Marc Anthony Hair and Nail Salon in Nashua. "We bonded with him. He was beautiful, he was calm, but you get your guard up. You wonder if something or someone is going to take them away. Your guard is up, but he was just so sweet.

"We were in Russia like two days, and I started looking at emails and hearing about the ban," said Rella. "I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? We're here, in Russia, and this is happening?' We asked our coordinators about it, and they thought it wasn't really going to happen."

Ciccone said she isn't sure what the future might hold.

"We just don't know if this can be resolved quickly,'' Ciccone said, "or if there's a moratorium put on adoptions for a period of time, or if it's permanent. We're in a state of limbo, just like the families."

Wendy believes the Rellas' adoption will be approved, but she still has concerns.

"I worry what will happen," said Rella. "Will someone else adopt him?

"In my heart of hearts, I know that would be OK because at least he would have a family. But we want people to know there is a family in Bedford, New Hampshire, that wants very much to welcome that child into our home and give him the love every child should have."



pfeely@unionleader.com

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