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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 licenseto work in Russiasuspended. 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
opinionated April 13, 2010, 9:16 AM

This is a tough one. Adoption is really dificult when even dealing with a newborn. An older child will definitely be a challenge. However, prospective parents need to be well aware of both the positive and negative aspects of adopting older children. More often than not, they will probably have emotional issues. Therefore, the parents should be prepared mentally and financially to help cope properly cope with problems that may arise. Although, I feel the return of the child to be a bit extreme, it could have definitely been a lot worse. At least he is alive and well. Sadly, this event will probably further the emotional issues he already encompasses. Of course, no one but this family will ever know the what truly went on, but hopefully this is seen for what it really is. An isolated event that does not to effect loving and prepared individuals with adopting a child ouside of the US.

dorothy April 13, 2010, 9:54 AM

I don’t blame the parent,The adoption agency should have let this be known aboutthe child but what they should have done was give the child back to the agency not put him on a plane

Play Pen  April 13, 2010, 11:17 AM

This remind me of the movie “Orphan”, what is the return policy?

MomFirst April 13, 2010, 11:22 AM

This is a very difficult issue, and I do not think anyone should sit in jugdement of this mother. I have lived with my choices, and although I would never change what has happened or my love for my children, there are circumstances that make you revisit the issues. My eldest child is adopted and I would never change that. However, his adoption was not preplanned nor was it actively sought after. I would never call it an accident, I usually refer to it as God’s Plan for me and my life. I took my child home from the hospital when he was only a few days old. I was the transitional home and I was never intended to be the adoptive parent. However, when circumstances occured that made only two choices viable, me adopting this child or a life of constant upheaval and change of fostercare every 3 mo for the first 3y of his life, I did the only thing a mom can do. Life was wonderful and everything worked perfect. I would have told you at that point the nurture was much more important than nature. And time would show me that I was wrong. Does that mean I give my child back? No way! However, I understand the turmoil. After 15 years, my child was by far different than anything I could have imagined. His childhood was happy and fulfilled, even by his own conclusion. But, something else drew him into a life no one could have seen coming. Depression, Bipolar Mania interspersed with deep lows, a secret life of alcohol and drugs. Deceit and dishonesty were now his way of life. By far different from the loving, Christian home in which he was reared. I thought he was on sleepovers and school sponsered activities, and even church activities. I did not find out for years that I would drop him off and within minutes he was gone and leading his own life. If you think I didn’t check on him you are wrong, most people felt I checked him too often. However, he and his friends were clever and coniving. I only found out after he had been arrested and court ordered to be in rehab. Some kids have completely differnt sides, and only some people see them both. Even after years of therapy, counselling, medications, and interventions he is not the same, and he is two people. One the world sees and one is who he really is. It is scary to watch that person come to life. He is dangerous and I don’t know what to do all the time. We are still working at it. Would I ever give hime back? No, he is my child through and through, but I do understand the dilemma. And for you skeptics out there, no there is no guarantee that this would not have occured with my biological child, but at least there I know the family history. It has only been recently that I have discovered, that his biological mother has almost the exact same history. Now that is scary. Don’t judge other people when you have not walked in their shoes. MomFirst

Carol April 13, 2010, 1:13 PM

Foreign adoptions aren’t the only ones that can be disrupted. I worked for Social Services for 15 yrs. Children that were adopted here were returned. The one that surprised me the most was the return of a child by a mental health professional.

My son is adopted. Like another writer, I never intended to adopt. I got my son when he was 2 weeks old. He was born addicted to cocaine. He was only supposed to be here 2 weeks. That turned into months and years. He grew in my heart and never left. He needed special services from the very start. As he grew, I learned that nuture can’t out do nature. He is a wonderful young man, but our house looks like a battle field. I was only able to work part time because he had so much trouble in school. He has serious mental health needs. We were able to keep him out of institutions until recently. He is 15 and now in a group home.

Would I have considered giving him back? Never. Do I think someone else might have? yes. But I believe my committment to him has kept him alive and my love will make him a responsible adult.

Gyllian  April 13, 2010, 3:57 PM

I am a television show producer and think this would make a very interesting debate panel topic. As someone who has not adopted a child before it’s easy to quickly pass judgment, but reading these post makes me rethink that ease in which I judged. I think her actions were wrong, but the biggest mistake on her part was not creating a support system for her and her new son. If I moved forward with a panel on this topic would anyone be interested in being part of it… if so you can email me or post again on here.

anonymous April 14, 2010, 4:45 AM

I think the solution is to look to transracial adoptions in the US. We have many children here who need homes. If we adopt locally, there will be more controls of what is going on. Yes, there will be issue for the kids, but there are huge issues for kids adopted from other countries. Besides, many cases of international adoptions are transracial and face the same issues. And for the kids, foster care is worse.

anonymise April 14, 2010, 7:14 AM

I wanted to comment back to Gyllian I think it would or could possibly help other adoptive parents. I adopted a 3 3/4yr old boy from China July 08. I have a bio 10yr who is the love of my life and my husband who is my best friend. Well saying that my family has been turned upside down I thought because I went into a deep depression after coming home from China.
I have felt alone and isolated and intense anger. I have no patience for the incessant lying not answering questions and the manipulation etc. There is no one that will tell you any of this before you adopt. There are so many issues that these children have and most of us are not prepared for.
In saying that my son has attachment disorder which I am hoping to find out how to deal with and help him. But it has been almost 2yrs of this and therapy for myself and no one helping me realize that it is not just me. You all have talked about help well I don’t think that it is as easy to get the right help unless you have someone specifically trained in some of these issues. I had to send out emails across the country to find a therapist trained in adoption and attachment disorder in my area. The other thing is when all these problems are going on the isolation that no one understands what you are going through is devastating. And unless you have gone through adoption yourself you don’t know. Well I guess I have said my peace. I would like to see this information be brought to a forfront and better prepare adoptive families for what may be ahead for them. The stress on marriage and your relationship with any bio children are part of this also. The expense of some of this help is not cheap. And the free help may not be trained for your needs. I have felt that there is no one out there while you are in the adoption process that divulges any of the info. Which may turn some away from adoption and if that is the case it may be more than that person is willing to take on. Not a bad thing. But on the other hand it would help the families that are dedicated to adopting a child.

anonymous April 14, 2010, 7:38 AM

I also think that if some of these adoption agencies were more forthright and offer more info and training on some of these issues the kids have that would help. But I believe that their heart is in the right place in wanting to place these children in homes I don’t think that they offer enough info. Or references of where to go when you get home. So I don’t necessarily agree with what this women did I can understand the threat to your family and the people that you love. I have not heard any one mention adoption disruption. Which I think could have been an option. But if she was feeling as alone and isolated as I have been the only emotion she was running on was fear for her own life and her families. I think most mothers would do whatever they can to protect their family from harm. There may be other options but her fear wanted him as far from her loved ones as possible. This does not make her a bad mom to her bio. It might mean she was trying to protect her own child from harm. Which is not out of the question.

Grynne April 14, 2010, 8:30 AM

I am a foster Mother and I can tell you even when they “give you all the details”, it’s still not enough. Until you actually live with a child and develop a rhythm you cannot know 100% what you are getting into with another human. I also know from experience that 99% of news stories are written to sensationlize a subject. Once again unless you live it, you cannot know 100% of the details behind anyone’s story. What I will never understand and probably never will be able to appreciate is foreign adoptions when there are so many children right here in the USA that just need someone to care. I am a transitional stop for many kids but I manage (or try my best) to make a small difference, my reward is even after they are adopted I still hear from a few. There have also been a few that caused me to worry the ENTIRE time they were here, but I was lucky to have many friends in the system who were able to provide me with services that are not always easily accessible to new adoptive parents. They are there - just buried under mounds of bureaucratic paperwork and generally overworked representatives. I believe I would rather see a child with a family who can appreciate and enhance their good qualities while finding ways to deal with and correct the not so good rather than with a family who is too frozen with insecurities to be a benefit.

lizbell April 14, 2010, 10:33 AM

i dont think there should be adoptions to many problems at least the women didnt keep the child and abuse it good for her some adoptive parents keep children and abuse them sometimes adoptive parents are in it just for the money thats why i hate adoption its wrong

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arobins June 11, 2010, 8:36 AM

GA mom of 5: you sound like a real piece of work. Your dedication and true motivations regarding those children are evident in your post. Children know when an adult is faking the funk vs. truly loving them. You might have eventually engendered some emotional attachments to them but they seem to in no way come close to the ones that you have for your bio children. The truth about adoption is that it is hard and very few people are actually able to live up to the true definition of it from even a legal standpoint, let alone an in-depth emotional one. An adopted child is supposed to be THE SAME THE SAME THE SAME as a biological child. There should NEVER be a difference and very few people can honestly do this. As a mom of two children(biologically mine) I cannot imagine pronouncing over their lives the prognosis that they will probably be in prison!!! I would ALWAYS hope for the best for them and pray that they would go the right way. Bet you wouldn’t talk about prison any of your bio children and you continually differentiate between those two girls and your bio children throughout the posts. You act as though the help that you gave them was a charitable contribution and not their right to expect from you as their parent! You act as though you could do any less—they are your children. A bio child doesn’t ask to be born and an adopted child in general does not ask to be adopted. Shame on you for trying to impress your minister so much and put on such a front!The two girls saw RIGHT through that and that’s why they moved back near their bio family: because people will often choose the real deal no matter how dysfunctional rather than live with people putting on an act. Children just want to be loved unconditionally.

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