Two couples get OK to adopt in Russia

“It was an amazing day, just so special, what we’d hoped and dreamed it would be,” said Jeana Bonner, of South Jordan, Utah.
Misha Japaridze/Associated Press
“It was an amazing day, just so special, what we’d hoped and dreamed it would be,” said Jeana Bonner, of South Jordan, Utah.

MOSCOW — After weeks of anxiety, plodding in the opaque Russian legal system and spending thousands, two US women have custody of their adopted Russian children and are preparing to take them home to start a new life together.

Jeana Bonner of South Jordan, Utah, and Rebecca Preece from Nampa, Idaho, spoke Saturday of the confusion and emotional swings they have gone through since arriving in Moscow in mid-January, expecting to quickly leave with their children, both of whom have Down syndrome; the Bonners and Preeces each have another child with Down syndrome.

Bonner and Preece, and their husbands Wayne and Brian, had spent about a year, including multiple trips to Russia, to arrange for the adoption of the 5-year-old girl and 4 ½-year-old boy. By late 2012, the adoptions had received court approval and they thought all they had to do was wait out the 30-day period in which such rulings can be challenged.


But in those 30 days, a ban on Americans adopting Russian children sped through parliament and into law, part of a hastily born package of measures retaliating against a new US law allowing sanctions on Russians identified as human-rights violators.

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When Jeana Bonner and the Preeces arrived in Moscow, they found themselves caught in a legalistic blind alley. Although officials said adoptions approved before the ban would go through, the judge who was to issue the decree formally granting custody said the ban meant there was now no mechanism for him to do so.

Help came from a surprising quarter — the office of Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who has been one of the strongest critics of American adoptions. The office appointed an attorney for the Preeces and Bonners, who obtained a Supreme Court order directing the lower court to immediately issue the decree, Bonner said.

‘‘We were really excited and thought ‘let’s go pick up our children,’ ’’ Bonner said. But the lower court waited 15 days.

‘‘That was really frustrating and disheartening’’ especially because some other American adoptive parents had received quick action from courts in other regions of Moscow, she said. The further delay forced Brian Preece to go back home to attend to the family’s fireplace business, while the two women stayed, racking up what Rebecca Preece said were ‘‘a couple thousand dollars’’ in costs for food, accommodation, and canceled flights.


The decree came through Feb. 5 and the women rushed to the orphanages. ‘‘It was an amazing day, just so special, what we’d hoped and dreamed it would be,’’ Bonner said.

Both aim to leave Tuesday. Meanwhile, they have been doting on the children, who will keep Russian names as middle names and get new first names — Jaymi Viktoria Bonner and Gabriel Artur Preece.

The children have already brought some cheerful surprises to the toy-laden hotel rooms where they are staying until the flight to the United States.

‘‘As soon as he saw the bathtub, he wanted a bath,’’ Preece said. ‘‘That’s been his favorite thing to do, sit in the warm water, sit and splash in the bathtub.’’

The pleasure of finally having the children has smoothed over much of the last month’s distress and the women expect to leave Russia with favorable memories.