Signed by President Vladimir Putin
on December 28, the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions has thrown thousands
of lives into limbo. Doors closed for U.S. parents in the process of
adopting, as they have for many of Russia's more than 700,000 orphans.
U.S. families have adopted 60,000 Russian children since 1992, including
many with disabilities. More Russian children were adopted by U.S.
parents in recent years than by families from any other country.
Seen As Tit For Tat
While the ban is nominally an attempt to protect Russian children from
abuse they may face by U.S. parents, the measure is seen mainly as a
response to U.S. legislation signed into law in December. That
legislation imposes sanctions on Russian officials implicated in the
2009 prison death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other
officials who have acted with impunity in committing alleged gross
As the U.S. adoption ban sped through Russia's parliament, D'Jamoos decided to take action. On December 20, he initiated an online petition that gained more than 11,000 signatures in a week. On December 26, Paralympics gold-medalist and Russian-born adoptee
Tatyana McFadden delivered the petition to the Russian embassy in
D'Jamoos says his own story was the best evidence he could offer in appealing to Putin. He wrote:
Throughout my childhood, I had never expected to be loved by a
family. My biological parents had left me in the hospital because of my
disabilities. My orphanage housed about 100 children, all of whom were
physically disabled and had been neglected by their parents. Some of the
horrible conditions at the orphanage included no heating during harsh
winters, lack of water during summertime, rudimentary education, lack of
sanitary facilities, inadequate accessibility equipment, and the worst
of all, lack of love and care. I expected a gloomy future in a state-run
But D'Jamoos had luck on his side. Just barely.
Fitted With Prosthetics
Natasha Shaginian-Needham, the co-founder of Happy Families International Center,
a U.S.-Russian NGO that aids orphans with special needs, was filming a
documentary in 2006 in an orphanage in the town of Nizhniy Lomov,
outside of Penza, southeast of Moscow. It was there that she met
D'Jamoos, then Alexander Shulchev, whom she remembers rolling across the
floor on a board with wheels.
With Shaginian-Needham's help, he was connected with Michael and
Helene D'Jamoos of Dallas, Texas. They agreed to house Alexander during a
trip to the United States for surgery. A local hospital agreed to
operate without charge, amputating his deformed legs and fitting him
The D'Jamoos family, meanwhile, grew attached to the boy and decided to
adopt him. It took bribery, Alexander admits, to speed up the process.
At 15 years of age, he was just one year away from being too old to be
eligible for adoption.