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Adoptive Mom Ships Kid Back to Russia

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After a mother returned her child due to his alleged behavioral issues, Russia is considering eliminating U.S. adoptions until they can set some new rules.

russian boy

Kate Tuttle: There are all kinds of reasons to adopt a child: to expand one's family; to share your love and good fortune; to secure a companion in your old age; to nurture a young soul; to live out fantasies that were denied in your own childhood; to stave off loneliness; to gain a larger purpose in life; to have an ally; to control someone smaller than yourself. Some are noble, some are selfish, all are pretty human.

And all are exactly the same if you have a child biologically.

There's really only one difference between becoming a parent by adoption and birthing a child: You can't adopt accidentally. Some intention is required, along with months of research and planning, and often a very serious financial commitment. Which is why it's so shocking when adoptive parents do what Torry-Ann Hansen of Tennessee did: return a child.

Seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev, renamed Justin, was sent back to Russia by Torry-Ann Hansen, who had adopted him just a year ago. According to published reports, he flew alone from Washington to Moscow on a one-way ticket. When he landed, Russian officials took custody of him at Immigration. Questioned at the Ministry of Education, the boy said that his adoptive mother pulled his hair and didn't love him. The case has attracted wide attention in his homeland, which has become the third most popular source of adopted children for American parents, after China and Ethiopia. But fallout from this ugly episode may cause Russian officials to suspend adoptions to the United States.

For her part, Hansen and her family claim that Artyom was emotionally disturbed and exhibited violent behavior. They claim they were misled by the Russian orphanage from which they'd adopted him. The World Association of Children and Parents, the U.S. agency that handled the adoption, has had its license to work in Russia suspended. But this isn't the first Russia-to-U.S. adoption journey that's gone terribly wrong. According to Russian authorities, 14 Russian children have died after adoption by American families since 1996. Whether this is a large number, given the number of total adoptions, isn't clear, but what is obvious is how upsetting the story is to the Russian public. It's not surprising that the official response has been a proposal by the foreign minister to suspend all U.S. adoptions of Russian children until new rules can be put into place governing them.

I think this makes sense. Parenting is hard work, period. Adopting can be even harder, and adopting an older child is always going to require parents who are prepared for the additional work that may be required in caring for a son or daughter who has faced significant early losses and may bear deep emotional wounds. It's hard to imagine a tougher task, or a more sacred one. But right from the start, it sounds as if Torry-Ann Hansen wasn't ready to treat her son with the care and respect every child deserves. Changing his name -- at age 6! -- seems a particularly glaring red flag. And although I'm sure she'll deny any physical abuse, Artyom's own testimony that she pulled his hair is another.

At the very least, some kind of extra screening for parents adopting older children internationally would seem to be a good idea, if only to weed out those who would return a child the way they'd return a pair of shoes. This is not to make light of the real emotional and behavioral difficulties Artyom may have -- but that's part of being a parent (and while it's well known that some children in the Russian orphanage system suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, adoptive parents have the opportunity to meet the child before they finalize the adoption, so the time to regretfully change your mind is before you bring him or her home).

International adoption has become increasingly popular in the U.S. as more prospective parents have been frustrated by the domestic adoption process. You hear about the long waits and uncertainty, and people worry openly about the complexities of transracial adoption, or fear what they see as the great unknown that is open adoption. These are real concerns, and it takes more than just love to make these adoptions work out -- it takes learning and listening and education (and lots of love). But the best parents have always known this, and thousands of domestically adopted children and their families live happily ever after.

The people this will hurt, of course, are parents who are waiting for children with whom they've already been matched. Because of the thoughtless actions of one wannabe mother, they may not get the chance to parent kids they are well prepared to love. And that's a tragedy for all involved.

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51 comments so far | Post a comment now
GA Mom of 5 April 9, 2010, 6:06 PM

We adopted two girls out of the foster care system in 2002. We were NOT planning on adoption, but a pastor’s wife and friend asked us to “look into helping these children”, my husband attended a hearing, expressed interest to the judge, and after being questioned, we were given instant custody! They were 12 and 13.

While I’m glad we did this and helped these daughters, it was very disruptive to our family, and changed our lives forever. Both girls suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder, Depression, were not just masterful liars, but would totally invent “incidents” that never happened, and they both were prolific shoplifters. They also both had eating disorders, major developmental delays, and most likely had criminal records.

We managed, but had to move them to another state, pull them out of school and home school them because of the significant delays and behavioral issues in the schools, and we had to move our two older, college age children out of the home for their own safety and protection from false accusations.

Insurance did not cover treatment for “Reactive Attachment Disorders”, and within months, our therapy bills were breaking the bank. Once we demanded to look at the children’s records, it became evident that both girls had not been truthful during any of their sessions, even lying about their past, their parents (who were both in prison), and their other siblings. Both my youngest child and myself were “poisoned” by one girl, I took away kitchen knifes from her room constantly. I also found evidence of attempt at identity theft, stolen goods, suspensions for drugs, and on and on.

They are both now in college. Not extremely successfully, but they’re there by the Grace of God. I quit my life, and home schooled them, and my husband quit his job to spend more time helping me with controlling them, and helping with home school. They both chose to return after graduation to live near bio family for college, and the years of work we did was quickly undone. It’s sad, and I don’t see them ever functioning as fully engaged, successful adults. I do feel like they saw how a real marriage works, how a real family functions, how normal routines look and help you lead a balanced life, and learned the value of education.

My heart goes out to any adoptive parents that are having problems with their children. It is hard to raise and love any child, but it is much easier when they come cute, tiny, and innocent. When they come and already have hardened, bitter hearts, bringing them into any successful relationships is next to impossible.

Returning our children was never an option for us, but we did think twice before going into any other adoptions, although we’ve been asked. Right now, our mission has been to restore our relationships with our two older children, and raise our youngest and doing it well, when we are in fact, worn out from all the drama involved with our adopted daughters. We love them, and will always love them, but they are not trustworthy, and most likely will end up in prison at some point. What influence the bio parents had on them could not be “undone” by the years we have worked with them and tried to teach them. They already knew how to “cheat the system” and lie to get what they wanted. They mislead many people…teachers, counselors, youth leaders, pastors, and most of our friends. Keeping them safe from themselves was a constant worry.

There needs to be much more support, and mandated insurance and mental health benefits that come with all older adopted children. There also needs to be support groups, books with instructions for the best way to handle the issues that come with this syndrome, and awareness in our communities on the impact that adoption can have on good families. Divorce rates are high, and the doubt cast by such children can polarize the community against well meaning parents who have no idea what is truly going on in their homes.
We ONLY figured it all out when we installed “nanny cams” and finally knew what went on when we weren’t in the room. What abuse one girl pushed on the other, and how the abusive sister would get her sibling to do misdeeds for her finally was obvious to us. It seems surreal that something like this could have happened to us, but it did, and we held on and made it through.

Good luck to All who have such a heart to help children. Most of us only mean to give a child a good home, with altruistic intentions, but damaged children can make that all head so off track, it may never turn out the way parents original intent was meant to be. My idea of “successful parenting” is now: If your child is not in prison, and can support themselves and live on their own, then you did a great job! Well done!!

Anonymous April 9, 2010, 7:07 PM

You should have looked into it more, not just doing it to impress your pastor

Adoptive mom in CA April 9, 2010, 7:53 PM

I have three sons, two thru birth and one thru adoption. Our youngest son was adopted from an orphanage in Romania.

And yes, I confess to having pulled his hair. It was a last ditch effort to try and get him to stop biting my arm. It didn’t work — and he was able to break my skin even through a shirt and a jacket.

I was prepared for a hard road. I accessed every single bit of help that I could get. I even went to court to get help. I know the hell that I live in.

I can’t imagine the hell that Torry-Ann lived in with her son and the new one she lives in without him.

Kristen April 10, 2010, 4:08 AM

I think this is a wake up call. I am unsure of whether this mom did the wrong thing, especially if information was hidden from her(which doesn’t surprise me). I highly doubt that any agencies would have given help for free, so what was she suppose to do? Also from the sounds of the GA 5 mom on this page I would never put up with that kind of life for my family, it sounds terrible. This needs to be a wake call for any adoption agency and foster care system, including the US system.

Ladybrinx April 10, 2010, 5:54 AM

I don’t think she abandoned the kid, kids fly alone all the time, she paid someone to pick him up and take him where he needed to go. Was it the ‘right’ thing to do? Probably not, but I bet she tried to get help and no one would do anything about it. I think this story and the one of GAMom above happen a LOT more than people realize. GAMom, God bless you for trying SO hard. They went out of there way and their comfort zone to help those girls. Some people just can’t afford to do that. I bet that this Tenn mom was at her wits end and didn’t know what to do. At least she didn’t kill the kid like some of the other adoptive stories that are out there. I feel sorry for her and her family, what a mess, and I bet she never pulled the kid’s hair. The kid probably made it up, if he’s capable of death threats, then why isn’t he capable of lying. I have to say, I’m on the Mom’s side here, like I said, it may not have been right, but I bet no one would help her either.

maria April 10, 2010, 9:01 AM

What do expect when you adopt from other countries that are trying to pawn off children. Did she not spend time with this child. I am torn here. This kid has some major problems. Not sure she went about it the right way. Couldn’t this be considered child abuse since she is now the legal parent. At the same time, now this child is abandoned again. This is gonna cause more emotional problems… torn here..

maria April 10, 2010, 9:02 AM

What do expect when you adopt from other countries that are trying to pawn off children. Did she not spend time with this child. I am torn here. This kid has some major problems. Not sure she went about it the right way. Couldn’t this be considered child abuse since she is now the legal parent. At the same time, now this child is abandoned again. This is gonna cause more emotional problems… torn here..

Anonymous April 10, 2010, 12:17 PM

what do you expect when you adopt these defective kids from another country?

Anonymous April 10, 2010, 3:12 PM

I keep reading “my family”. When you adopt a child they are your family! What would you do if one of the children you gave birth to pulled this? Send them back? Give me a break….

TX mom of 5 April 10, 2010, 9:40 PM

I dont think that anyone who hasn’t been through the adoption process, whether in the US from the foster care system or overseas, can make any kind of comments on this womans actions. As the mother of two older adoptiove children from the US and two birth adoptive children, my heart goes out to that woman. It had to be a very hard decision to send that child back. The youngest of my two older children I adopted from the TX foster care system, put me through a living hell. It was not until after the adoption was final that I found out she was bipolar. I love her dearly and now she is an adult but the problems she has live on and are still making her in some ways still a dependent. The sexual acting out, the mood swings, defiance, reative attachment and a forth grade reading level, led us to years of therapy, group homes, truancy, juvinile detention centers, theft, etc. Do not judge until you have walked in another person’s shoes. God bless.

Susanne M. Dickmann April 10, 2010, 11:38 PM

Wow. I am raising my boyfriend’s son, who has completely turned my life around, has me making sacrifices I never thought I would be able to make. It is the single most exhausting, most difficult, most responsible job I had in my life - and most amazing, rewarding and enlightening one at the same time. We are thinking of adopting a brother or sister. I agree with you: my heart bleeds for the boy - but also for the countless children whose hope of being loved and raised in the Us have been destroyed by the selfish and irresponsible acts of one person. Still, it is comforting to see that this made so much waves, as it shows that people do have compassion and interest. It also makes me think of all the celebrities who have been able to speed up their adoption process for whatever reasons. Their status does not guarantee them to be good parents, and a revision of the laws and obligations all around may be a good thing to come out of this heartbreaking story. Oh, and may I say: Tory-Ann, you are a stupid woman, and I feel for you because you will have to ask yourself for the rest of your life if you did the right thing.

Anonymous April 11, 2010, 2:52 PM

I always grew up wanting to adopt but after reading some of the stories of parents who have adopted troubled children, I have completely changed my mind. I admit my frailties and I know I can’t handle what GA mom of 5 mentioned. I think there should be compensation for families that take in children with serious psychological or emotional issues.

Louise McCloud April 11, 2010, 3:19 PM

How can any one do such a horrible thing to a child, I couldn’t believe this woman (A registered Nurse) of all professions did this. She doesn’t deserve to have children (I only hope she is not allowed to adopt another child here in the US or abroad) and I hope she will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

What she did isn’t only severe child abuse, it’s child endangerment (can you imagine all the horrible things that could have happened to the sweet little boy)?

I am so glad this story is getting world wide attention, their are so many wonderful people who really love and want to have children and would be great parents.


Anonymous April 12, 2010, 4:55 PM

my brother was not an older child when he was adopted, he was 8 mons old, and yet he still had a lot of problems. when we were kids he would throw my dog (a toy poodle) down the stairs and stick her with my moms sewing needles. his room had countless holes in the walls from punching them and he loved to throw things at my moms head when they argued. as a young teen he was in and out of juevenile detention centers for assualt and battery and theft. since seeing all of the trouble he has been in and caused, its made me terrified to have any sort of conflict with anyone, which may not sound like a bad thing but i cant ever stick up for myself or others when i need to, which has caused a lot of problems for me. my other siblings and my mother are also very much affected. in both adoption and having children biologically you very rarely get the happy healthy family you were hoping for. and more often than not adoptive children come with a whole heap of baggage that effect everyone around them.

Kim @ Beautiful Wreck April 12, 2010, 8:14 PM

As an adoptive parent to a child with a multitude of issues I am appalled at what this parent did. First, adopting a child is not like making a purchase. You can’t return to sender like they are defective product. It is a person. A child. I have had some hellish moments as an adoptive parent but our family sought help. It has not been easy, I have made lots of mistakes but I refuse to give up on any of my children. This mother would not have done this to her biological child I am betting - I am not sure what made her think it was okay to do it with an adoptive one. Better screening needs to take place of parents adopting older children that will apparently have needs and emotional problems.

asalia April 13, 2010, 12:17 AM

This “mother” traumatize poor boy even more, now his trust will be totally gone. As an orphan myself, I would prefer to live in orphanage than be adopted by this “woman” (even wolf could raise a child). At least I had hopes and dream about family, as I grew up. Poor boy is from different country, where a customs are totally different from Americas customs, different language. What did she expect that this child will react to her abuse with praise and glory? She need to prosecuted not only for “dumping” this child, but for the abuse also.

mommiedear April 13, 2010, 5:39 AM

It is truly sad that women like this overshadow the sanctity of the process and create roadblocks for people who are genuinely looking to bring home a child. What makes it worse is that she is a NURSE! In the field of caring for the sick she should know better. I just read on trruconfessions how a woman is looking to adopt and because of this story and Russian putting a stop to ALL adoptions hers will be delayed.And the comments on that also show how women like me feel about this subject. It is not fair ! Everyone deserves a good home and a safe environment to live and every woman deserves a chance to be a mother if she chooses.

DG April 13, 2010, 6:30 AM

How dare we judge that family unless we have walked a mile in there shoes, we don’t know the whole story. We only know what the media wants us to know. I have a mentally challenged son of my own and i totally understand what she is saying with the child saying there going to burn your house down when sleeping and other things that child must be doing. This is my own birth son and he says/does stuff like that i can’t imagine having a child that you really know nothing about their background saying/doing those things. It also isn’t the child fault its the biological parents fault, the question should be why is there so many children up for adoption in these other countries to begin with? Thats my question, why put perfectly good kids up for adoption unless there were issues to begin with. You see it on the news all the time, how much time do you think they got to spend with that child before they adopted him? Not much they don’t allow you to show up when ever you want to see how the children are acting, oh no you need to make an appointment. So anything they have to hide they can. This is a problem we should not be adopting from other countries until we have taken care of our own here, and believe me we have our own issues with kids here that are up for adoption, but at least it can’t cost as much as adopting overseas. You can spend more time here investigating and visiting and getting more information. In Russia they can say anything they want and how would we know? Your taking a chance anywhere you adopt it takes a big heart to even go through this process, plus she has other adopted kids. I don’t blame her, i probably would have done the same thing, i might have just taken the child for a year first to see if we were a good fit, but i am sure they don’t allow this anyway. I am also glad they’ve stopped the adoptions right now until more rules have been put into place, we as americans should be asking for more rules here to, like having the child live with you for a year first to see if your a good fit, if not you should have the option to return the child. God bless those people that open there hearts and homes to any of these children, i know i couldn’t do it. I believe God gives you as much as he thinks you can handle and i could barely handle my own disable son. He is now almost 22, and growing up i had lost many jobs, and places to live and booted out of school many many times and almost homeless but i did it with Gods help cuz i couldn’t have done it alone. I believe it does take a village to raise a child, but when the village gets burned down where else are you suppose to go, its hard!! I am glad those parents did everything they could to get that child some help, i hope now parents that adopt really really look into it and try to get as much offsite visitation as possible, because once the child is in a different area and that child probably feels all alone they will act up. Anyway everyone stop judging those parents, unless you have walked a mile in there shoes, just remember we don’t know the whole story, we hear only what the media wants us to hear. This is to the parents when ignore what everyone is saying to you, the only judgement that will ever matter is God, he’s the only one allowed to make that judgement, he knows exactly what has happened to you and yours. I am glad you didn’t wait 5 years and then realize there was a problem, you did the best you could, God Bless!!

Carly Guerrero April 13, 2010, 8:09 AM

This woman should be taken off the “allow to adopt” page. I went through hell and back with my daughter for yrs (over 10) and got her helpand guess what? It worked. You don’t give up on your children you help them. I would love to talk to this woman

Carly Guerrero April 13, 2010, 8:12 AM

To DG, I have walked in that family’s shoes and I came out a winner cause I dealt with my daughter. You have to prepare yourself, adopt a child or natural born, they are not dolls

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