Russian Adoption Gone Bad

Many of you may have heard the news that a 7-year-old child adopted in September 2009 from Russia was recently put on a plane by his adoptive grandmother and returned to Russia.  His adoptive mother, Torry-Ann Hansen, a nurse, sent the following note with the child:

 To Whom It May Concern:

I adopted this child, Artyom Savelyev on September 29, 2009.  This child is mentally unstable.  He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behaviors.  I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and issues.  The orphanage employees were definitely aware of the major issues that this child has.  Yet, they chose to grossly misrepresent these problems, in order to get him out of the orphanage.

After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child.  As he is a Russian National, I am returning him to your guardianship and would like the adoption disannulled.

Sincerely,

Torry-Ann Hansen

Understandably, there has been tremendous outrage about a young child being abandoned in this way.  The Russian government has even threatened to shut down adoptions to the United States as a result of this parent’s irresponsible actions. 

I believe that once you adopt a child, that child and any issues they bring are your responsibility as a parent to manage.  It seems likely to me that this little boy may indeed have some severe emotional issues.  After all, we know his biological mother was alcoholic, could not care for him and put him in an orphanage at age 5.  I doubt the care he received up to the point he was adopted was that great.  Orphanages in Russia unfortunately have a reputation for providing less than optimal care.  Then, at age 7, this little boy was adopted and moved to a new country where he was faced with adjusting to a new parent, language, food, etc. 

The fact that this child was apparently hitting, kicking, spitting, and engaging in other aggressive behavior suggests he was struggling emotionally.  Children often can’t tell us what is going on with them emotionally, but their behavior speaks loudly for them.  It is possible that he may actually have Reactive Attachment Disorder, a disorder which can result from inconsistent early parenting, abandonment, and trauma. 

Some children with “RAD” can be very violent and scary for an unprepared parent to deal with.  Typically adoption agencies are required to provide 10 hours of preadoption parent education, but I’m not sure that can really prepare the average parent for the tremendous challenges of parenting a child with such a background.  

If the adoptive mother did not reach out for professional help, it is likely she was emotionally drowning.  Nonethless, regardless of how overwhelmed she possibly was, this mother certainly had other options besides sending this child back to Russian by himself on a plane.  In the worst case scenario, she could have relinquished her child to local child protection services and avoided igniting an international scandal that unfortunately may hurt other parents in the process of adopting from Russia.  In this situation, no one wins.

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Licensed psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.
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