MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For years, Minnesota families have opened their hearts and homes to hundreds of orphans from Russia.

But an international fight over adoption could soon change that, leaving children stuck in the middle.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would likely sign a ban to stop Americans from adopting Russian kids as early as next week. That would block dozens of waiting families from receiving children — including some here in Minnesota.

Uniting Two Brothers

The Thomas family, of Minnetonka, already adopted a Russian boy in 2008. Since then, they’ve been trying to adopt his younger brother. They say the potential ban is the latest in a series of adoption setbacks over the last three to four years.

While finalizing 7-year-old Jack’s adoption from Kursk, Russia in 2008, Renee and John Thomas discovered he has a younger brother, Nikolay, whom the family calls Teddy.

For nearly four years, they’ve been trying to make their family whole.

“It was a realization that you wanted them to have that bond — to grow up with their sibling,” said Renee Thomas.

But adopting Teddy has proven much harder than getting Jack. Russian courts have rejected their adoption papers eight times.

“We never thought that it would take so long,” Renee said.

A ban could delay things even more, or stop Jack from seeing his little brother in person altogether.

“When [Jack] asks, as he often does, when is he coming home? We say we’re just waiting for the call,” John Thomas said.

The ban is Russia’s reaction to U.S. restrictions against certain Russian officials accused of human rights violations. But adoptions have been tense for years, especially after a Tennessee woman sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Russia in 2010.

“[Russia] went through a process of re-screening every licensed adoption agency to re-accredit them before anything could proceed,” John Thomas said.

Several Russian and American groups are fighting the ban. In the meantime, families like the Thomases are waiting and hoping.

“Politicians – I don’t care which country — make mistakes,” John Thomas said. “And time will see who was right.”

The thought is that cases like the Thomas family’s – which currently have a child in the process — stand a strong chance of moving through, even if the ban takes effect.

But it’s not a guarantee.

Once a child turn 4 years old in Russia – and Teddy is that age now – a decision is made whether to send them to a government institution for kids up to 18.

The Thomas family fears Teddy has already been moved, and they have no way of knowing if that’s the case or not.

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