CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- Local outrage over a controversial law. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill that bans Americans from adopting Russian children. It's hitting close to home for southwest Floridians.
"It's totally a political move. Its so sad. Orphans are being used as political gain," said Emily Tichy.
Emily Tichy and her husband have one biological son, and have also adopted two children from Russia. Just three and a half months ago they brought little Leeza home from an orphanage. After hearing of the ban, this family is afraid Russian orphans will suffer as they become political pawns.
Little Leeza is 18 months old. Bright and happy, she's surrounded by her loving family and adopted Russian brother Evan. But her life in an orphanage was much different.
She suffered from a parasite that prevented her from gaining weight and was severely malnourished. "For these kids, truly, to be adopted into another country is their only opportunity at life," said her mom Emily Tichy. "Most of the times orphans in their country are viewed as the byproduct of people, or society, that they want nothing to do with."
Friday, President Vladimir Putin approved a ban, meaning children like little Leeza won't be able to come to the United States. The ban also stops families in the process of adopting a child. Some have been waiting more than a year. "We know of families right now were in Russia, they had their court date scheduled, and they were told to go home," said Tichy.
The move is in retaliation to a measure signed into law by President Barack Obama called the Magnitsky Act. The act calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
But many say the Russian parliament's adoption ban is hurting orphans and families. "Once you see that child, you can't just forget that child. O0r ever go on a day of your life without thinking of that child. So its heartbreaking for these families," said Tichy.
It's estimated there are about 740,000 children waiting to be adopted in Russia while only 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children, with more than 60,000 joining American homes in the past two decades.
Emily is asking for action. You can look at her blog here: journeytoleeza.blogspot.com