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Long Island

Long Island couple wait to adopt Russian siblings

Jane Bellassai of Hauppauge has taken up gardening and quilting lately - mostly to pass the time as she waits for the children she aches to adopt from Russia.

"I keep myself as busy as I can," Bellassai said. "I have to keep myself as busy as I can. I can't think about it."

Bellassai, 45, who currently stays at home, and her husband Ralph, 51, an engineer, have been waiting for almost two years to adopt siblings from Russia.

Now, with the news that a Tennessee woman sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Moscow by himself earlier this month, the Bellassais are hoping their wait won't be made even longer by calls from Russia to halt adoptions to the United States.

"Just to put a child on a plane like that is wrong, it's just wrong," Bellassai said. "I'm sure every person who is going through adoption right now really doesn't like this woman, because she's screwing it up for everybody else."

The Bellassais join what The Associated Press reported is about 3,000 families around the country who are hoping their pending adoptions from Russia haven't been dealt a decisive setback by the incident.

For Americans who adopt foreign children, statistics show Russia is the third most popular country. Between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, Americans adopted 1,586 Russian children, according to the U.S. State Department. During the time, 3,001 children were adopted from China and 2,277 from Ethiopia, statistics show.

While reports last week said the Russian foreign ministry had announced that adoptions were halted, in reality such adoptions are ongoing, international adoption experts said.

"There was a call for a suspension of adoptions, and that's different from saying there is a suspension," said Tom DiFilipo, president and chief executive of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, an advocacy group based in Alexandria, Va. "Adoptions are continuing even today."

DiFilipo and other adoption experts pointed out that the Russian Ministry of Education, which oversees foreign adoptions, has not issued a ban. Adoption advocates are waiting for negotiations to begin on Tuesday between the United States and Russia over the Tennessee flap.

For the Bellassais, who picked Russia because they wanted a child of European descent like they are, the process has been long and increasingly expensive. In the end, they anticipate paying tens of thousands of dollars in fees to the adoption agency and Russian government and for travel.

They've had to divulge information about their family, health and financial history. They opened their home to a social worker for an inspection.

The couple is waiting on a referral from Russia of the two specific children whom they'll be able to adopt. There's already a room prepared for the children in the Bellassais' home, complete with videos, learning games, and quilts and curtains Jane Bellassai made herself.

Then the couple can make the first of two required trips to Russia to complete the adoption process - trips they thought they would already have made long ago.

The idea that adoptions could stop "breaks my heart. It actually breaks my heart," Bellassai said. "But it could change tomorrow, though . . . . So you can't get too excited and you can't get too depressed. I guess this is actually good practice for being a parent."

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