Children have no 'return to sender'

Torry Ann Hansen made international headlines last week when she returned her adopted son, Justin, to Russia. Hansen said he “was violent and had severe psychological problems,” according to the Associated Press.

Did Hansen seriously stick this 7-year-old boy on a plane by himself and send him back to Russia with only a note in his backpack explaining her actions? Who does that? What adult thinks that’s O.K. or safe?

Now, Russia has threatened to suspend all adoptions to the United States and families who have already started the process are scared they won’t be able to finalize their adoptions.

Russians want legal actions taken against Hansen, while American authorities are trying to figure out who has jurisdiction over the boy, what charges to file against Hansen, whether Justin is an American citizen and if he should be returned to Tennessee.

According to a New York Times article, adoption officials said once the boy stepped on American soil he became an American citizen. Therefore, he should be brought back to Tennessee, which is where Hansen lives. Russian officials say he is a Russian, not an American, so he should remain in Moscow and be put back in to their adoption system.

I don’t understand why people are confused; it seems pretty clear to me. Hansen, an American, adopted him. Legally, Justin is her American son.

I also don’t understand why the authorities have delayed charging Hansen. If a birth mother put her biological son on a plane without a chaperone and sent him off to a foreign country, practically wiping her hands of him, that would be child abandonment.

She would be in jail and would lose custody of her child. How is this situation any different?

The Associated Press article said Hansen and her mother, Nancy, had no other choice but to send him back. They claim officials at the Russian orphanage lied to them. Nancy Hansen accused the orphanage of knowing about her grandson’s behavior and lying to “get rid of him.”

I bet if any parent were asked, he or she would say that all children have a tendency to be difficult. But the average parent doesn’t send his or her child to an orphanage or the hospital where he was born, claiming “this little kid is a nightmare, so I’m sending him back to where he came from. I don’t want him anymore.”

While I’m not a parent, I’m pretty confident it doesn’t work like that.

According to the U.S. State Department, when a parent adopts a child, besides agreeing to care for the child until he or she is 18, they are assigned an adoption specialist who helps the family and the new child adjust. The social worker also monitors the family for potential problems.

The Hansen’s were assigned a social worker, whose last visit was in January. The family claimed the boy was violent and unstable, yet they never reported problems to the social worker. The Associated Press story said there were no documented claims of his alleged hitting, kicking or other threatening behavior.

There is also no evidence to support the claim that Justin tried to start a fire in the Hansen’s house. If he did, why are there no fire department records or 9-1-1 emergency calls? If he was so bad, why didn’t the family speak up or ask for help? There had to have been other steps they could have taken before making the drastic decision to send him back to Russia.

While the details of the case and its outcome are being hammered out, the State Department is urging Russian officials to not halt other American adoptions of Russian children.

Other parents should not be penalized for Hansen’s actions. While Hansen clearly fell through the cracks of the adoption screening process, not every American parent will send their Russian children back after seven months.

I do agree with adoption officials who now say they need to re-examine their screening process for potential adoptive parents. Maybe new screening processes could prevent another “Torry Hansen” from becoming a mother.

The adoption process is long and stressful enough without this woman’s actions causing more problems. While this woman shouldn’t have been a mother, there are other perfectly sane, loving mothers who would love to give a child a home and should be given the opportunity.

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