Pam and Adam Webber were in the final stages of a year-long adoption process. They thought they'd be flying to Russia this fall to bring home a toddler, but then they heard Canadian adoptions of Russian children were in limbo.
“It's just heart wrenching and really hard to take,” said Pam.
International adoption was the end of the line for her. She and her husband tried fertility treatment and adopting from within the province with no luck.
“We wanted a family. We wanted a young family. We wanted a very involved family. I was the little girl who asked Santa for her own baby,” she said.
Adam Webber said they chose Russia because they heard the process is quicker.
“Quick being a year or two, as opposed to three or more years like a lot of places,” he said.
But soon the Webbers starting hearing about a change in Russia’s attitude on adoption.
Single parents and same-sex couples were barred.
A Russian law banning adoptions by U.S. citizens was rushed through parliament in December and sped to President Vladimir Putin's desk in less than 10 days in retaliation over a U.S. law calling for sanctions on Russians identified as human-rights violators.
Then, earlier this month, the country stopped adoptions to Sweden because it allows same-sex marriages.
But there was no word on Canada, so the Webbers prepared a toddler's room and Pam quit her job so she could fly to Russia at a moment's notice this fall.
Still, they braced for bad news. On Tuesday the Webber’s fears were confirmed by their Ontario adoption agency.
“It’s been a long couple of weeks trying to get answers and officially we found out today that Canada-Russia adoptions are suspended,” she said.
Closing the door
Robin Pike, executive director of Choices Adoption and Counselling in Victoria, said there has been no official word that Russia has closed adoptions to Canada, but it is closing adoptions to countries that allow same-sex marriages.
The Webbers said they don’t think their change of luck is a coincidence.
"I think the party in charge is probably scoring political points — with whoever it is that they think they should be scoring political points with — by taking this hardline against same-sex couples,” said Adam.
The Webbers never met their prospective child, but had completed all the paperwork. The couple say they’ve lost $25,000, along with their hopes of starting a family.
“We've spent the last few weeks, last month or so, trying to start our grieving process for this family that we thought we would have very soon and there's nothing we can do. There's nothing that the provincial people can do. There's nothing that our federal people can do,” said Pam.
“We’re in a lost position.”
In 2012 UNICEF estimated that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia while about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child.
“It's those children that aren't necessarily chosen by the people in country that could have gone somewhere else and been loved,” said Pam.
“It’s been a long road. I hope everyone realizes how lucky they are to have kids.”
Pike’s agency is advising prospective adoptive parents to look to Bulgaria or Hungary instead.