“Good night,” I whisper into my son’s ear as I hold him in my arms. I’ve just finished singing his bedtime song and his head and resting on my shoulder. He’s no longer patting my back so I know he’s drifting off to sleep. “I love you to the moon and back,” I whisper and give him a gentle kiss as I lay him in bed.

That little boy fills my heart with so much joy. He’s not just happy, he’s cheerful. Always. We had three children already before we adopted Levi. I love our family and our children. I felt like someone was missing, but I had no idea how much love was waiting for me…even after experiencing this three previous times. He has brought so much joy to our family. I can’t imagine having that ripped away from me.

And yet, this is what is happening to hundreds of American families waiting to adopt their children from Russia. Many have met and have relationships with these children. They were just waiting for it all to be taken care of–the paperwork, legal requirements, etc–and they had been waiting patiently, but with great anticipation. They know these children. They visit with them in the orphanages. They write letters, Skype, and have committed their hearts to each other. And then, overnight, these adoptions are banned. Why? Why would Russian ban these adoptions? Pride. Greed. Revenge. And why hasn’t America done more to fight for these children? President Trump. Do the decent thing here and fight for these children! Congress, let’s move forward and change this, NOW. I’m not even worried about the American families waiting. Our hearts may break, but we can recover. You know who can’t recover from this…from losing the chance to be adopted? These Russian children.

I asked the creator of the film, Susan Morgan Cooper, why she decided to make this documentary. I didn’t read her answer until after I watched To the Moon and Back because I wanted to see if the reason for making the film was the same feelings and thoughts I had after watching–if her message got across. Here’s her purpose:

“I was screening my last film, Mulberry Child at UCLA at a film class. Afterwards a Russian girl named Olga came up to me and said, ‘You MUST make a film about the Russian Adoption Ban.’

“When I started researching…I found it unconscionable that two super powers, America and Russia, could use innocent orphans as pawns in their political games. I had to do something to bring attention to this issue.

“My mission was to make the public aware of what was going on so that they could understand what exactly was the Adoption Ban. More importantly, my mission is to bring the children caught in the ban, many of whom have disabilities, home to their loving families in the U.S.

“In June 2016, we had a Congressional Screening on Capitol Hill and as a result many congressmen signed a petition to end the Adoption Ban that is sitting on President Trump’s desk.

“I believe the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Donald Trump Jr was at my screening where the possibility was discussed of bringing the Adoption Ban to the attention of Donald Trump if he were to become president.”

This is where I applaud her work because everything she said, I felt, and I feel driven to do something. Before I go on, I encourage you all to not only watch To the Moon and Back, but to do something about it after you’ve seen it. Tell your friends, share it with family, post about it on your social media platforms, and write your Congress Representative. Tell them about the film and tell them that we can’t sit on this any longer. These children are being sacrificed for what?

It’s been days since I watched the documentary To the Moon and Back and I’m still struggling to find the words. I felt such heartache as I watched. A story that had nothing to do with me seemed to have everything to do with me. It felt personal. Maybe because I’m an adoptive mom. Maybe because I have a daughter with special needs. Or maybe just because I have a heart that aches when I know that innocent children suffer. Whether you have adopted or not, everyone needs to see this documentary because it’s not about adoption. It’s about human decency, looking out for the most vulnerable, and fighting for what is right…standing up against pure evil. That’s what I feel this is. Pure evil. Plainly said, Putin is killing thousands of Russian orphans for the sake of his own pride–and it sickens me.

Whether you have adopted or not, everyone needs to see this documentary because it’s not about adoption. It’s about human decency…

Let me paint a picture for you, if I may. In Russia, there are approximately 740,000 orphans living in institutions. Let’s put that into perspective. Have you ever been to The Big House? I have. I cheered on my football team as I sat in that massive University of Michigan football stadium. It was a rush. But…imagine every one of those seats filled with orphaned children instead of U of M football fans. It would take nearly seven of those stadiums, seats full, in order to represent the amount of children in Russia without families and living in institutions. Have you ever flown a plane? A typical 747–3 class–can carry 416 occupants. If we filled each seat with one of those Russian children waiting to be adopted, we’d need 1,779 air crafts! With 740,000 children, that is easily the population of any major city. Sacramento, the capital of California, only has a population of roughly 495,000…and yet there are 740,000 Russian children who are waiting to be a part of a family. Does that not make you want to just cry to think about?

There are a few reasons why there are so many children in this situation. Poverty will always be a reason that a child is placed in someone else’s care, and Russians certainly are not immune to the trials of poverty. When you struggle to find food for yourself, the thought of feeding a child can feel beyond overwhelming.

Furthermore, many of these children are classified as special needs. These are among the most vulnerable children, needing extra care and attention. I cried as I watched this film, imagining my own daughter who was born with microcephaly, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. What if she had been born in Russia? There is little offered to parents and children who have special needs. Instead of supporting families while they raise their special needs child, parents are encouraged to place the infant in the care of the government. An orphanage. An orphanage where even good-intentioned care givers cannot give the attention necessary for each child.

Over the course of a year, Russian orphans will have an average of 50 caregivers. Can you even imagine? With all we know about attachment and how crucial these young formative years are, it’s hard for most Americans to even be able to fathom their own child having a different caregiver each week. How is a child able to learn trust when their life changes from week to week like that? Russians usually don’t adopt even “healthy” and “typical” children. So these special needs children are certainly overlooked. In addition, once a child reaches of the age of 6, they too are overlooked as many are hoping to adopt babies.

When a child ages out of these government-run institutions, his/her future is grim. Let this sink in for a moment: Out of ten children who leave a Russian orphanage, four will get involved with crime or prostitution; four will become alcoholics; one will commit suicide. Only one will have a chance for a “normal” life.

Only 1. 

This is why international adoption in Russia is so important. This is why when a family feels moved to adopt from Russia, they should be encouraged. This is why when Putin stopped Americans from adopting Russian children, he gave those children a death sentence. And he did so in order to cover up his own corruption.

It is unacceptable, inhumane, and just evil.

To the Moon and Back explains how seemingly separate stories collide and corrupted officials create this devastating mess. As the story unfolds in the documentary, we learn that Putin, furious with the United States, did the only thing that he could think of to hurt Americans without financially hurting Russia. He banned adoptions. American families who had been communicating with children in Russia, who were ready to fly out to pick up their child, and who created relationships with these children could no longer adopt. Sure, these families were heartbroken, and so were the children. More horrifying, however, is that overnight, Putin stole bright futures from thousands of his own Russian children. Overnight…no mother, no father, no siblings, no school, no medical attention, no therapies, no health restored, no future.

What is possibly more disgusting is that to even further cover up his greed and pride, he claimed the ban was because Americans weren’t properly caring for these Russian children. To deflect attention around the real issue revolving around the ban, he rallied his people declaring it was time that Russians protect and care for their own–not allow Americans to take their children where they will be mistreated and die. It worked. The Russian people initially seemed supportive of the adoption ban.

However, many of the younger and more educated Russians were very aware of that. January 13, 2013 they protested the ban with the “March Against Jerks.” Their march supported the idea that the way to help protect and care for their own IS by allowing these good families to come and adopt these children.

And now, it’s up to us because nothing seems to be happening.

My hope is that you take the time to watch this. Share it. And then act. I didn’t know about the details of the Russian Adoption Ban. I knew we could no longer adopt from Russia, but I didn’t know why. Now that I know better, however, I will do better. I will be a voice for those children. Will you join me?

To find your state Congressman or Congresswoman and representative, go to this link: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

The documentary has plans to release this fall.