Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mother Sends Adopted Son Back to Russia

"Adoption is not rental," Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, told ABC news this morning.

Torry Hansen, 26-year-old single mother of Shelbyville, Tennessee, put her 7-year-old adopted son Artyem on a plane--by himself--back to Russia with a note saying "I no longer wish to parent this child." She says Russian orphanage officials misled her about Artyem's behavioral and emotional condition, that she was not prepared for his mental instability and violent behavior. After six months she was fed up and shipped the kid back like he were a dog that could be returned to the pound.

It is disgraceful how information was handled--it's the adoption agency's responsibility not only to screen parents but to prepare them for the challenges of adopting, especially a child that has been institutionalized. But here again we see an attitude of entitlement, of a parent not treating an adoptive child as truly their own. There will always be unexpected challenges with any child, biological or not. Would you just one day look at your biological child and say, well, I don't feel like dealing with this tantrum stage anymore, and since it's all about me and you're lucky to have a parent in the first place, I'll go ahead and dump you off somewhere. Absolutely not.

When you adopt a child who has spent several years abandoned by his/her parents and living in an unstable, institutionalized environment, of course the child will have baggage! Does that mean the child is any less deserving of love? Do we really only love in order to get it back? If we do, then that is not true love. That's not even a relationship. It's simply a self-serving transaction which unfortunately involves another person. To love is to serve. To love is unconditional.

This American Life did a show called Unconditional Love, and told the story of a couple who adopted a child from a Russian orphanage who, like Artyem, had severe attachment issues and at one point displayed violent behavior. They spent years going to therapy with him, instituted several practices in their home designed to help their child deal with the trauma of his past. The mother took time off from her job. They stuck with him, to the commitment they had made when they took this child as their own, even when it was tough, even though it put a strain on their marriage, and even though their son continued to act out. When the interviewer asks the mother how she could love and put up with a child so volatile and unloving, the mother seems almost irritated with the question and says something like this:
"You just do. I mean, he's my son. What was I supposed to do? He's my son. Of course I love him."

THAT is unconditional love. It's not dependent on the child's actions or what percentage of the time the child makes the parents feel good about themselves. And guess what happens in this story? I challenge you to listen to it without crying, without being blown away by the power of true love.

The Russian government is upset with the Hansen case and has called a halt to all international adoptions for the time being. I have to agree with them on this. Who will stand up for this child? Poor Artyem is going to have even more hurts to deal with now. What this woman who calls herself a mother did was completely disrespectful. If she wanted a flawless, mild-mannered child that loved her perfectly and immediately in the way she envisioned, she should have instead gotten a mirror. Or a puppy. She should not have adopted a child.


Elle said...

As sorry as I am for the child, foreign agencies are not upfront about their children nor do they have a very good track record themselves. In some countries, people are told upfront that a child has mild or severe disabilites. And they do extensive background checks. This is a billion dollar money making business for countries like Russia. People are so desperate for a child that they will be duped into anything. As appalling as what that mother did, the blame lies with Russia.

Liberty said...

Thanks for your comment. I think the blame is shared between the government agency and the mother. I wonder what the agency would have done had the mother contacted them about the issue before it got out of hand, before she decided to return him. The report says nothing about what she did to try to get help. Perhaps her intentions, at first, were completely good. It's just a very sad outcome all around. Most of all for Artyem.

Peppermint Patty said...

I agree with Elle. Foreign countries AND our own country don't divulge everything all the time for fear a child will never find a forever home.

I have heard of cases in the US where the case worker didn't tell the adoptive parents everything about a child when they knew FULL WELL it would be a "deal breaker."

When we were in the process of "fostering to adopt" you go through a WIDE range of what you can and cannot handle in parenting a child.

My husband and I both worked full time and couldn't do a severely handicapped child that needed round the clock care. We also were not equipped to deal with SEVERE abuse/neglect (fire starting, animal abuse, sexually acting out, sexual perpetrator).

Our FIRST priority was protecting our son, who was already in our home, and our safety.

So who knows what they put on their application to their agency and the Russian adoption agency.

I do feel badly for this child Artyem. Maybe there is a family out there that could deal with all the severe emotional things he has gone through.

Amanda said...

As an Adult Adoptee, I may have a different perspective. I was adopted because my parents had tried for 9 years to get pregnant and birth a child but could not. So, they pursued adoption instead. I knew full-well that my mother would have rather birthed 10 kids instead of adopting just one. While I am sure I was loved no less than any other child and indeed, had a wonderful childhood and a great relationship with my parents to this day--I had a job to do. I was making up for kids who could not be had. What fortified this for me was when adoptive family members, and various other people, implied that through my reunion I might be "betraying" or "hurting" my adoptive parents because "remember, they couldn't have kids."

At any rate, because of my own expience as well reading empirical research finding that many adoptive couples have "idealized expectations" of how a child will fit into their family, I really have little sympathy for the Adoptive Parents in this case. These are children who need homes--not additions to complete the family that parents had envisioned. Because, after all, we are made no guarantees in life. Any one who gives birth to a child could have a child with a disability or emotional problems. No one is impervious to the possibility of an accident later on in life that might cause a variety of problems even if a child is born perfect. I have an issue when people who want to adopt make specific requests of what they will or won't accept--as if there are seperate standards for an adopted child than there are for a biological child. I think that disclosure should be made so that parents can be prepared--NOT so that parents can get "this kind of child" and not "that kind." This is about supplying needy kids with homes--right? The idea that children should be returned for being unmanageable or not what adoptive parents wanted or expected, IMHO, is absurd. That's how I feel...that if I as an adoptee had "issues" before I was adopted that it would make me somehow less worthy of parents or that it would be understandable that someone wouldn't want to parent me.... I am a human being for goodness sakes.

The compounding factor here isn't just the problems that a child may come with but the problems that may occur because of the adoption. If they went so far as to put him on a plane alone without a thought as to what would happen to him once the plan had landed---do you really think he was treated well or welcomed in their home? There may be additional neglect in meeting the unique and diverse needs of White, Russian children. Because their skin color may appear the same as a White, American Adoptive Parent's, it may be assumed that they will assimilate to American culture and lifestyle with ease. Being rejected in your homeland is bad enough--coming to a culture wildly different than your own and learning that your old way of life is "wrong" and needs to be changed is horrendously traumatic--yes indeed, this is why many children act out. Rejection after rejection and the feelings of shame--I, as a private domestic infant adoption adoptee, have felt this way in my own experience. I absolutely cannot bring myself to imagine how these Russian children feel.

The blame may lie with all (except the child) but none moreso than the other IMHO.

Liberty said...

Great comment, Amanda. You said it better than me. And how some parents might not be prepared for the nuance of race when it comes to kids from Russia since they are considered "white." Interesting.

pixter75 said...

Great comments! My insight is this: since the mother involved was 26 years old, I think she was too young an inexperienced to look into help through her state and insurance. There are many groups and organizations that could potentially help the boy in the U.S. that would not be available in Russia. I believe she chose a country that would be abke to quickly satisfy her whimsical desire to be a mom. She chose Russia, an older child so she didnt have to wait. She was single. Could she not have kids or did she not want to wait through the sperm selection, hormone shots, urine testing and dr. Visits, etc. In order to get pregnant. The FMLA Act allowed her to take 3 months off of work to handle and finish an if she went back to work in January, the child should have been placed in school, was he enrolled? What do the teachers and school have to say about the boy? My guess is she did have issues with him (but how scary is it to be 7 and forced into a new family, culture, language and country?) But got frustrated too quickly because of her age and being single is hard enough as it is, and gave up on the poor child. I really hope that she doesnt ruin adoptions for other americans. Also the point was read about the older children here in the U.S. waiting for a good home; was it a commodity to have a little boy who was from Russia that she could flash around for attention....I dont know but my son is 5 and he threatens all sorts of things, but he is an innocent and it is my job as his mother to teach him, no matter what it takes.

pixter75 said...
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Nancy said...

if she adopted a puppy and returned it, we wouldn't be discussing this story.