Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, says that there are probably about 175 Guatemalan adoption cases still pending, even after five years. Guatemala's case serves as a cautionary tale for what might happen if pending cases involving Russian children aren't resolved.
"If we don't have a process in place, then kids get caught in a web of problems between governments," Stottman said.
In Russia, about 25 cases have been moved forward since the adoption ban was passed, but that is a very small percentage of the nearly 1,000 open files at various stages of the adoption process. While some of those 1,000 families have simply indicated that they want to adopt from Russia, other adoptive parents have actually begun the process. Strottman says that nobody knows exactly what that number is right now, but that the U.S. government is trying to assess these cases.
After Russia's supreme court ruling last Tuesday, Strottman says that it could be up to 100 adoption cases that will be brought to completion, but that would still leave hundreds of kids and families separated and uncertain about their future.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, now the top GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, understands their anguish.
"My daughter went through the same thing," he told National Journal, detailing the drawn-out adoption process his daughter faced when trying to adopt his granddaughter, Zigita Marie, from Ethiopia. "There were a few points at which we thought that the adoption wasn't going through when it was already agreed to," he said. "Here I am — a United States senator and she's a university professor. It took us eight months to get through this process and each time, it could have fallen apart."
Inhofe is working with Landrieu and other lawmakers to try to help families affected by the Russian adoption ban.
Also part of the effort is Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who knows perhaps more than anyone in Congress about Russian adoptions.
Several years ago, Blunt and his wife adopted their son, Charlie, from Russia, dealing with the court approval process and visiting Russia several times before finalizing the adoption. Charlie is now 8 years old.
"Using these defenseless children as political pawns is outrageous," Blunt said in a statement. "Our first priority must be to bring the children who are already matched with their new families to America as soon as possible."
Several other senators also have firsthand experience with adoptions, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., whose daughter, Bridget, is adopted from Bangladesh. Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat nominated by President Obama as secretary of State, has an adopted niece named Iris, who was born in China.
The Senate on Jan. 2 unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution, led by Landrieu and Blunt, which condemns Russia's adoption ban. Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Karen Bass, D-Calif., have introduced a House measure.