VACAVILLE — Milena Hoeven and Kristina Riesche have a few choice words for Russian president Vladimir Putin. Words that aren’t suitable for print.
Last month, Putin signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children. Many people, including Hoeven and Riesche’s parents, see it as retaliation for the passage of an act by American government officials that imposes a visa ban and financial sanctions on Russian officials accused of violating human rights.
On Thursday, a State Department spokeswoman said the country will work with Russia on wrapping up the adoptions in progress. On the same day, Russia seemed to soften its stance, stating it would allow a bilateral adoption agreement to remain valid for the next year.
Hoeven, 17, and Riesche, 25, were both adopted from Russia. They lived in the same Russian orphanage, where Riesche “adopted” Hoeven as her younger sister. Both traveled to the United States for a summer visit through Kidsave, an organization that started by bringing children from Russian orphanages for visits, in hopes of finding them homes.
That happened twice with Benicia residents Frank and Debbie Hoeven. They adopted a son, Sergey, now 26, and Milena Hoeven.
Kristina Riesche doesn’t like to think of what her life would be like had she not met Ross and Mary Riesche.
“Not pretty,” she said.
She recently returned to the area after attending school in Hawaii. Her next goal is to work in the law enforcement field.
“I’m glad we got Kristina,” Mary Riesche said.
But she’s concerned for the children still there. They are the ones that will suffer from the decision, she said.
“I feel sorry for the kids who won’t have the possibility of living in the United States,” she said.
Kristina Riesche was 15 at the time of her adoption and recalled being the only “adult” adopted that day. She had been in orphanages since she was 5. Her father was in prison and her mother was unable to take care of her.
“Only a few of the children are orphans,” Ross Riesche said. “The others are there because their parents could not care for them.”
Options are limited for those who aren’t adopted and “grow out” of the Russian orphanage system, For the females, it’s prostitution or very low-paying jobs, Kristina Riesche said. For the males, it’s the Russian army or the Russian mafia, she added.
The Riesche family hopes Putin changes his mind.
“I used to think he was cute. Now, I’m mad at him,” Kristina Riesche said. She has given thought to adopting a child from Russia when the time was right.
“This really puts a burden on his government,” Ross Riesche said. “I hope he finds a different way of striking back at the United States.”
Americans were traveling to Russia for the adoptions and spending money on lodging, food and drivers.
“It stimulates the (Russian) economy to a certain degree,” he said.
The Hoevens adopted their children about three years apart – their son in 2002 and their daughter in 2005. During that time, procedures changed considerably, Debbie Hoeven said. Their son was living with them within a few months of his summer visit. It took nine months for Milena Hoeven to become part of the family. She attributed the delay to new regulations that attempted to put a damper on corruption in Russian adoptions.
Milena Hoeven spent about two years in a Russian orphanage.
“She was a good fit for our family,” Debbie Hoeven said.
Or, Milena Hoeven, said with a laugh, “ . . . you felt bad for me.”
The family wrote to Putin, asking him to reconsider his decision.
“I don’t know his true motives,” Frank Hoeven said. “It’s too bad to put something like that in place. The kids need to be adopted.”
Milena Hoeven said she hopes Putin changes his mind.
“There are so many kids waiting,” Debbie Hoeven said. “It’s sad. I just hope they all find a place somewhere.”
Janet Shirley, overseas program coordinator for the Mountain View-based Bay Area Adoption Services is working with four families who want to adopt from Russia.
“It is political. The children are the victim of a political schism,” she said.
Adoption from Russia has been gradually changing over the years, she said. The paperwork was getting harder and both parents were required to make two trips. The number of people looking to adopt from Russia was also declining, she said.
“I would love to see them change their minds on this issue for the sake of the children,” Shirley said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.