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December 29, 2012

Putin adoption ban a 'death warrant'

MARBLEHEAD — Two years ago, Keri Cahill had a dream about a boy named Daniel.

It was the fall of 2010, right before she made her annual visit to Orphanage No. 5 in Siberia with her daughter, Anastasia, whom she adopted from that facility in 2005.

Cahill, a 47-year-old teacher and founder of Rebel Shakespeare, a Salem-based youth theater program, slipped into a room in the orphanage to be alone for a few moments. That’s when a little boy walked into the room and said his name was Daniel, just like in her dream.

“He’s a very, very sweet boy,” she said.

Since that day, Cahill has been raising funds and filling out forms in the hope of adopting Daniel, who is now 13. That dream was crushed yesterday when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families.

The move was widely seen as retaliation for a law President Barack Obama signed this month imposing U.S. travel and other restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.

“Putin basically signed a death warrant for thousands of children,” Cahill said. “They will die, and that’s not an exaggeration.”

It is hard for most Americans to understand the fate of homeless children in Russia, many of whom are disabled or have special needs, Cahill said. There are more than 750,000 in state care, she said, and many more on the streets.

If they are not adopted, their prospects on their own are dim.

Some of her daughter’s former roommates at the orphanage have gone on to prostitution or jail, according to Cahill. One of Daniel’s roommates hanged himself right before he was to be released.

“We live in the best country in the world,” she said. “We have our needs met. There are children in other parts of the world, including Russia, who do not have their basic needs met, and the majority of them, when they get out of (an orphanage) at 16, have a few years before they’re dead.”

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