The New York Times headline screamed out the fear that sits in the back of the mind of all parents who choose to build their families via international adoption: Russia Calls for Halt on U.S. Adoptions. The reason? A Tennessee woman, Torry Ann Hansen, who sent her 7-year-old child back to Russia alone with a typewritten note explaining why she wouldn't be parenting him anymore.
In the end, with limited information available, readers have only the bare facts at their disposal, but these bare facts are causing a visceral reaction in the blogosphere and Twitter. A woman adopts a boy, assumed to be around six years in age, parents him for six months, and the returns him on a flight alone to Russia with a backpack and note explaining that she won't be parenting him anymore due to claims that the agency lied to her. She claims he is violent and dangerous, threatening to kill the family and setting paper on fire in his room. She states that she has done all she can, consulting a mental health professional, though never getting the child therapy.
For parents still waiting to adopt from Russia, this situation possibly affects their future. One of the risks of international adoption is that programs sometimes close after potential adoptive parents have already invested a great deal of time, money, and energy in learning about a new culture. For Russia, the situation appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back in an already strained adoption program, "including three incidents in which Russian children had died in the U.S."
Strollerderby points out that "there are at least three sides to every story and somewhere in there lies the truth" and that once the adoption took place, it was the responsibility of the parent to get him help.
Bloggers also reacted with horror. A Mother's Hood says,
He isn’t merchandise to be returned to sender. He is a child that has probably grown up in an orphanage. Of course he has emotional and psychological problems. Who wouldn’t? Talk about abandonment issues. And, you don’t put him on a plane, by himself, and send him back. If you are having issues, you call DCFS. You ask for help. You get him into therapy. You get yourself into therapy.
Sassy Infertile Lady points out, "In adoption, nothing is ever a guarantee. Just like when you have your own child. Who is to say they won't develop pediatric cancer, autism or depression. You can't just give them back -- you figure it out."
Grown in My Heart reacted with a group post, pulling in a multitude of points of view on the topic. Marcie -- the mother of a Russian-born son, states, "But, this isn’t a case of dissolution or disruption, is it? It is child abandonment" while Melanie -- an adoptee -- agrees, "There are ways for families to deal with troubled children, even if they feel that the child can no longer safely be in the home. These parents should have done this. Child abandonment is illegal for a reason."
What makes this post more amazing is the diversity of reactions to the same news story. While some of the panel reacts with horror or despair, Lisa points out the fact that news outlets are not providing all the facts: "Maybe this single mother tried to get help and nobody listened to her. Maybe she was so desperate and alone and frightened that she didn’t know what to do. And just maybe she feared that she was becoming a monster who might snap; maybe she was afraid that she would hurt or even kill this little boy."
The situation also echos of the situation with Anita Tedaldi, who went on The Today Show a few months ago to discuss how she terminated her son's adoption. Back then, Punditmom passionately stated: "'Give backs' are for bad holiday gifts, not for children."
Lisa Belkin, the author of the Motherlode column that first ran Tedaldi's story, also weighs in on the similarities:
Tedaldi sought counseling and advice before she made her decision, and then she found the boy a family where the mother was a social worker trained in helping children with attachment disorders. Even so, most of you excoriated her, calling her selfish and cruel. I can only imagine what you think of a woman who puts a 7-year-old on an 4,858 mile, 11-hour international flight alone.
Ovolina, Tedaldi's blog has been offline today with a maintenance message.
What is your reaction to the story? Weigh in with your thoughts.
Updated to add: CBS news is continuing coverage of the incident. The State Department has sent delegation to work with Russia in reopening the currently suspended adoption program. Additionally, the woman who sent the child on the flight--Torry Ann Hansen--has refused to speak to authorities who are investigating whether or not abuse occurred.
In addition, ABC news is reporting that the woman was in the process of trying to adopt a second child from the Republic of Georgia.
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