Sioux Falls, SD
News of a new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children is hitting a Sioux Falls family hard.
"It's sad when you put children, babies, and you mix that with politics. Every child deserves a mom and dad, and I just don't feel right with that," father of an adopted daughter, Dan Johnson, said.
The Johnson family adopted their daughter, Maria, when she was four months old from an orphanage in Russia. From the first time they saw her, they knew Maria was the one.
"I received that fax the first time in December. She became part of me then," mother Jeannie Johnson said.
"She blended right in. She was like part of us. Like Jeanie said earlier, from the minute we got her picture and a video of her, she was part of our family," Dan said.
UNICEF estimates more than 60,000 babies have been adopted from Russia into the United States in the past two decades. 52 families from the U.S. were very close to bringing home their own bundles of joy when Vladimir Putin signed the law banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
For Dan and Jeannie, it's hard to think about not having their special little girl.
"My heart breaks for those people because it must be awful. I can't imagine. It's beyond my imagination that would have happened to us. We're very lucky," Jeannie said.
Maria has grown up as just another sibling to her older sister Maggie and younger sister Molly.
"She always takes my clothes without asking," Maggie said.
"I always take her clothes. And we share a closet so we have to share," Maria said.
"I have two other daughters, and they're all the same," Dan said.
Now that Putin has signed this new ban into law, the Johnsons say it's heartbreaking to think of those families who will probably never get to hold the babies they had grown to love through photos and video.
"They're devastated, I'm sure. I know if that happened 12 years ago, Jeannie and I would both be just devastated because there's our baby. We can't do anything. We're handcuffed; we can't do anything," Dan said.
"Especially from the moment when you get that fax and that child is your child. I believe then God places that child in your heart, and it would be worse than a death because you'd always wonder whatever happened to that child," Jeannie said.
There was one big surprise during Maria's adoption process. The Johnsons were told they wouldn't be able to conceive any more children after they lost their oldest daughter Maggie's twin during their first pregnancy. They found out they were pregnant with Molly while they were waiting to retrieve Maria from Russia.