A local family and adoption agency are speaking out against a Russian law banning U.S. adoptions. The law took effect New Year's Day. The ban is seen as retaliation by the Russian parliament to a human rights bill signed by President Obama.
Adopting seven-year old Alex and four-year old Zach when they were 17-months old was the greatest life changing decision the Smola's say they ever made.
"When we saw the kids' pictures for the first time to be matched with them, they become your kids at that moment," said Steve Smola.
Debbie and Steve adopted their two boys from orphanages on the opposite ends of Russia, with the help of Catholic Family Services.
"I don't remember what our life was like before they came," said Debbie.
The Smola's say their decision to adopt came after trying for 10 years to naturally have children. They say they chose to internationally adopt because it was the right fit.
"My husband's family is Polish and I'm Italian so we looked to Europe and the Russian program was really a good fit for us," said Debbie.
The Smola's say Alex and Zach are examples of the thousands of children who are adopted by U.S parents from Russia each year. They say it was devastating hearing Russian lawmakers put a stop to that statistic after banning U.S. adoptions.
"In the end, the sad thing is the children are the ones that are really, for lack of a better word, suffering. It's all political. It's not in the best interest of the children," said Debbie.
They say it's hard to imagine the nearly 50 families whose pending adoptions were canceled because of the law.
"Especially to have traveled and met the child and maybe even had planned to be bringing them home within days would be devastating," said Steve.
"In a word it's tragic. It's a tragedy for children who are waiting for a loving families," said Laura Glasner.
Glasner is the Adoption Director at Rochester's Jewish Family Service. The organization has also helped local families adopt from Russia.
"There are something like 700,000 children that are in institutional care in Russia. That ranges through infants up to teenagers," said Glasner. "The whole international adoption community I think is really heartbroken."
Glasner as well as the Smola's say although this law is discouraging, they encourage parents looking to adopt to remain hopeful.
"There's still other adoptions avenues. If people are interested not to give up because there are multiple ways to adopt children," said Steve.