"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.