After the Intercountry Adoption Information Act of 2019 passed the U.S. House in late May, a Jefferson mother is hopeful that full passage will bring some answers to potential international adoptive parents.
Pam Romano applauds Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) for his work on the bill, even though it doesn’t specifically address what she, her husband, Mark, and their three biological children experienced in 2013 when their adoption of two special needs Russian brothers fell through due to a ban.
Inspired by the Romano’s story, Collins began working on the bill. This session of Congress, it received unanimous passage of the House and has companion legislature in the Senate.
“We do believe there's no hold up and there is a Senate companion to it, so it's what they call 'at the desk' over there. It could be passed at any time, then go on to the President's desk,” said Collins. “At that point, then the State Department is required to publish what's going on in the world and how these different countries do their adoptions, which areas are a problem and it also requires the State Department to talk about how they're trying to fix these problems with intercountry adoptions, so we can have more people be able to adopt kids from around the world."
Collins said this is the farthest the bill had gotten before. Romano said she was amazed and overjoyed that the bill passed the House unanimously.
"We all know that's a rarity,” she said. “And just to have everyone on board, I think it sends a strong message to the State Department. You will be held accountable, you need to provide updates and accurate information. I mean, even today if we go to the State Department website and pull up Russia, there is not accurate, updated information on their website about Russian adoptions.”
Six years after she and her husband attempted to adopt special needs brothers Bogdan and Yura from Russia, the ban doesn’t prevent Romano from keeping the two boys in her heart. Romano shared they were fortunate to know that Yura, the youngest, was “thriving” in a foster family and that they were able to have as much contact with him as they wanted.
“I don't keep what I would call regular communication with him because I feel like it's extremely important they don't feel like I'm looking over their shoulder and it creates some emotional turmoil for me as well. Even though, like I said it's a huge blessing and we've exchanged gifts and whatnot,” Romano said.
She hoped their public fight for the brothers may have helped Yura get the care he needed.
“He was labeled an invalid, he would have spent his entire life in an institution had we not pursued him and probably if we hadn't made him visible to the media after the ban went into effect. So that's an enormous answer to prayer.”
While Yura thrives in a foster family, Romano said they unfortunately do not know the whereabouts of older brother Bogdan. “We have no information on him. And that's been extremely stressful and disheartening, I always was under the impression that if an orphan remained in an orphanage, his or her information would remain on a national registry, their database, and that's not always the case. He could have just been moved off of there to keep him hidden from the media, to keep his status, so we don't know. And like I said, that's been the hardest trial on us.”
Romano’s affirmative and upbeat voice easily repeated the story of her family’s struggles, but became wistful as she spoke about her boys.
“The greater challenge has been in not knowing where Bogdan is, and just really having to trust God that his heart is not orphaned, and that He is his Father... but we do hope and pray that one day we'll know for sure exactly where he is and that he's also thriving in a family who has chosen to remain under the radar so to speak, or, you know, our greatest heartache would be to find out that he's still in an orphanage somewhere.”
Romano hoped the bill would help prevent other families from the emotional suffering they endured, as it aims to provide transparency and further information to adoptive families, requiring the State Department to provide relevant and current information.
"I think it will provide necessary information to adoptive families that they might not have access to otherwise. If you're going to an adoption agency, their goal is to help you adopt and they won't necessarily provide minute-by-minute or updated information regarding relations between the countries and potential snags."
Romano said since the adoption process was so consuming, they weren’t really aware of the changing political landscape with the U.S. and Russia, and they weren’t worried when the adoption agency and others said they had seen situations like this before.
"So it came as a complete shock, especially when there was no amendment for the children who had met their adoptive parents from either country,” she said. “And time after time on the State Department calls, we begged them, please can you just lobby for the children who met their parents? And they absolutely flat-out refused to.”
She is deeply grateful to Collins and his compatriots for pushing for the Intercountry Adoption Information Act and believing in dreams of families like hers. She described him as “a blessing” to her family and to many others who were left in the dark when the adoption ban went into effect.
“It's so interesting to me that he came in to office in the year 2013, just as this law was coming in to effect and I personally feel like this was all part of God's plan to give a voice to the orphan crisis in the world, really.”
Romano said in the end, their adoption was more about the two orphans they wanted to call family, and less about a family needing another child.
“We certainly didn't, it's about kids that need loving families and it remains that to this day. So we're hopeful other families will be able to not run in to the roadblocks that we did."