Torry Hansen, a single mother from Tennessee achieved her desire to adopt a child by adopting a little boy named Artyom from Russia. Not long after that, things began to go horribly wrong. The boy began setting fires, hurting animals, and threatening to kill family members. The family was in over their heads in caring for him. This story caused international outrage when she placed him on an airplane with a one-way ticket back to Russia, along with a note, and an escort to meet him on the other end.
Russian courts annulled the adoption. They also halted adoptions in the U.S.
The World Association for Children and Parents sued Torry Hansen, forcing her to pay medical costs and child support until the boy reaches adulthood, citing they wanted to deter other families from doing the same thing and to show the Russians that you “can’t get away with this in the U.S. and get away with it.”
First, let me say that sending him back on a plane, without having the adoption formally annulled first was the wrong thing to do. Alleged reports say that she never asked social workers that she was having problems with the boy and never asked for help. She went through a lot of red tape to adopt him; she should have gone through a lot more red tape to annul the agreement. The return could have and should have been handled better than it was. In my opinion, if she’s guilty of anything, it’s for not taking these steps.
But, there are three issues that have not been addressed in this article which have to be considered regarding pre-adoption, current placement, and adoption preservation.
According to this article on Torry Ann Hansen Artyom’s birth mother lost her parental rights because she was an alcoholic. After that, he lived in an orphanage. Russian orphanages aren’t exactly the poster children for tender, loving, care.
A CNNarticle describes that Artyom was beaten at the orphanage and that he burned down a building near the orphanage. Prior to the adoption, the Russian doctors told Torry Hansen that “he was healthy.” Then they walked away. It’s easy to see how this young boy could have RAD, FASD, and PTSD, any one of these disorders could render his behavior unmanageable in a family setting. All three combined is a ticket to familial disaster. The judge said in his order that when Hanson adopted the boy she signed a contract acknowledging that it was possible the child could have physical, emotional or behavior problems that were unreported and even unknown to the adoption agency.
Where is the legal protection for parents who are adopting violent, aggressive internationally adopted children? There isn’t any. International pre-adoptive agreements must clearly designate protocols for families addressing RAD, FASD, PTSD symptoms which render a child’s behavior unmanageable in a family setting, due to the vast amount of internationally adoptive children suffering from FASD. After all, we have pre-nuptial agreements, don’t we?
Let’s look at what would have happened if he’d stayed here. Let’s say that she did notify social workers that he was aggressive and violent, causing threat of harm in his school, community, and family. What would they have done?
Answer? Nothing. Because that is what we do in the United States for severely mentally ill persons. Artyom would have made numerous trips through the psychiatric revolving door. In between those trips, he’d be terrorizing his classmates, neighbor children, and his family. When the family wore out, the state of Tennessee would have refused Torry Hansen the ability to place him in a residential treatment facility for children with trauma-related disorders, telling her that the only option she had was to involuntarily relinquish her parental rights so that the state could draw down federal funding to pay the $150,000 per year for his care. And before you ask about personal insurance-forget it. It doesn’t cover the first penny of this treatment. Of course, while forcing her to take this step, they’d charge her with neglect. Why? Because that is how we handle things here. We make them “second time foster children.” It works great for the state governments, but doesn’t do much for adoption preservation. And guess what? There is no American outrage about that. We accept it as ethical and moral. It happens to over 100 families per year in Illinois alone, as well as to thousands of families across our nation.
One question that keeps running through my mind is that if Torry Hansen should pay $1,000 per month child support, where does the alcoholic birth mother’s responsibility lie? Should she not share in the cost of his care? She chose to drink while pregnant. She chose not to get sober enough to care for him. She chose not to deal with the problems she created. How much easier is it to be her? Where did the root of Artyom’s problems begin?
A Russian newspaper reports that court documents say the boy was hospitalized for three weeks after he returned to Moscow, but they don't say what he was treated for. He was later moved to an orphanage and then sent to another institution. Really? Immediately after Artyom was returned to Russia, there was an outpouring of parents begging to take him. The most prominent family was a Russian Diplomat family. Why didn't they adopt him? Why then is he being cycled from one institution to another? Where are all the Russian families that expressed outrage and called him a poor, innocent boy who just needed a family to love him? As I recall, they were lining up to take him in.
Who abandoned him? The birth mother. The orphanage. Torry Hansen. The Russian Diplomat family. The Russian families. Why is Torry Hansen the only one paying child support?
To fully understand how the United States responds to post-adoptive children with severe mental and emotional disorders; I encourage you to read, “Second Time Foster Child” by Toni Hoy. The U.S. solution is just to cycle them back into foster care.
Where is the outrage for that?
It's not any better than what Russia does. We just hide it better.