In August, Jody Johnson of Schwenksville traveled to Russia to meet Oksana, a 6-year-old orphan with Down syndrome whom Johnson believes she was meant to raise.
The Air Force technical sergeant and single mother of three boys sat on the floor and played games with the little girl who was to become her first daughter.
But on Friday, Johnson's plans to expand her family seemed in ruins after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin signed legislation banning the adoption of Russian children by American parents. "We have so much more than we need, and we wanted to share it with someone who might not find a home so easily," said Johnson, 37, who is stationed at Horsham Air Guard Station in Willow Grove.
The law, which takes effect Tuesday, will immediately affect 52 Russian children who were destined for American homes and whose prospective parents were in varying stages of the adoption process. The children will remain in Russia, officials said.
The legislation is viewed by some as payback for a U.S. law targeting Russians deemed to be human rights violators.
In this case, politics has led to heartbreak for parents and children, said Gloria Hochman, director of communications for the National Adoption Center, an advocacy organization.
"These particular families frequently have already been to Russia, met the children, left photographs of their families," Hochman said. "The children are expecting them to come back."
More than 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted in Russia, Hochman said. About 120,000 children are in foster care in the United States, 1,600 of them in the Philadelphia area, she said.
"Every child is valuable," Hochman said. "We hope that this is not a closed story,"
Johnson believes that Oksana will one day join the family.
A divorced mother of sons ages 6 to 18, Johnson began considering Russian adoption about a year ago. She talked with her boys and each gave his blessing, although Reagan, 12, worried that other children might pick on her.
"I told him, 'Well, that's where you step in as her big brother,' " Johnson said.
Johnson had worked with special-needs children as a high school student and studied American Sign Language in college. She wanted to adopt a special-needs child.
So she registered with the Global Adoption Services Inc. agency in Bel Air, Md., and began a process that was expected to cost nearly $50,000.
In August, she traveled to Russia to meet the little girl who had been referred to her.
The translator spoke to Oksana in Russian. Johnson tried out a few words that she had learned and showed Oksana, who doesn't speak, the corresponding gesture in sign language.
She still believes that Oksana will one day get to sleep in the brown and turquoise room full of toys, books, and clothes she has prepared.