Monday, April 12, 2010

Russian Boy Adopted by American Returned to Moscow

Last September Torry Hansen, a single mom, and her mother, Nancy Hansen, flew to Russia to bring her newly adopted son back home to Tennessee. This was just one of the estimated 1,600 adoptions last year from Russia.

Artyom Savelyev, from the town of Partizansk in the far eastern part of Russia, is seven years old. His adoption was arranged with the Russian government by World Association for Children and Parents - an agency in Renton, Washington. Now that agency has a suspended license as the Tennessee authorities investigate the Hansen women.

Last week, grandmother Nancy Hensen flew with the boy back to Washington to put him on a jet to Moscow. Alone. She claims the child was looked after by a stewardess on the jet. She says the mother arranged to pay someone $200.00 to pick up the child at the Moscow airport and deliver him to the Russian education and Science Ministry. The child carried a letter from the adoptive mother, Torry Hansen.

Excerpted from the mother's letter:
"This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues," the letter said. "I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues. ...

"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 recently as January, a social worker visited the family and reported no problems. Now this action has created an international incident. Instead of arranging placement into another home through another adoption agency here in this country or a social network agency - like a religious outreach program, this mother and grandmother sent a seven year old boy back to Russia. Alone.

The mother says now that she was lied to by the Russian agency. She says the child's emotional health is not what they claimed it to be. This still begs the question - if the mother and grandmother could not handle this child, why didn't they seek help? Why didn't they relinquish the child to someone who would take care of him until another permanent placement happened?

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, said he was "deeply shocked by the news" and "very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted." That is from the Fox News report.

From a report at, the Russian Foreign Minister weighs in:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the actions by the grandmother, Nancy Hansen of Shelbyville, "the last straw" in a string of U.S. adoptions gone wrong, including three in which Russian children had died in the United States. The cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported with gusto.

According to,Russia is the third most utilized country in the foreign adoption world for American parents. Number one is China, then Guatemala before Russia. Russian adoption was opened to Americans in 1990. Since then, it is estimated that tens of thousands of adoptions have occurred from Russia. Last year, 1,600 were adopted by Americans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This story is so sad. And I question putting the boy unassisted on a plane back to Russia. But this situation of having Russian orphans with behavioral problems is out of control.

Please see this PBS movie that came out this year called "This Emotional Life: In Search of Ourselves...and Happiness" by Dr. Daniel Gilbert. Here's a webpage about Alex, the boy adopted from Russia:
It talks about how lack of physical comfort to babies and small children causes a lack of attachment.

Watch episode or part 1. It aired on PBS, is available to watch instantly if you have a Netflix account, or you can buy the disk on Amazon:
It explains how the orphanages in Russia are overcrowded and understaffed, with each nurse in charge of over a dozen children apiece. They barely have time to change and bottle the infants, and no crucial early bonding takes place.

This is with physically healthy children. Imagine the exaggeration and complications of the scores of orphan children in Russia who have been adopted by Americans where the babies are already born with FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome)!

Richard Gere, Katie Couric, Alanis Morissette, and other celebrities speak out in this movie. I can't say if what the adoptive mother and grandmother of Justin Hansen (birth name Artyom Saveliev) is right or wrong. But before jumping to conclusions and making a witchhunt out of it (which as a devoted mother was my knee-jerk reaction), please look at the bigger problem. How heartbreaking it must be to just want a child to love, be unable to have one, and then when you finally go though the process of adoption, they don't love you back. And on top of that are dangerously violent. It's definitely not the childrens fault, its the terrible hand of cards they were dealt with before they even had a chance to start life.

But stop to consider how you - as an adoptive mother - would react to receiving hate instead of love. It must be devastating. I have a greater appreciation for what the mother must have gone through. And even more so...I feel so sorry for the boy. And all the children in this situation.

Those children need parents. But obviously the prospective adoptive parents need to be educated in what they are undertaking. Not everyone may be cut out for such a hard path, and they should be prepared with real-life application of psychology and child development to reduce unrealistic expectations. There are so many childless couples in America looking for a child to take into their home and love. What a sad thing it would be if that option was taken away.