Returns on Adoptions? Feedback Friday

ABC News (and every other media outlet) reported the following story this week:

"Torry Hansen of Shelbyville, Tenn., put 7-year-old Artyem Saviliev -- renamed Justin Artyem Hansen in the U.S. -- on a plane to Moscow's Domodedovo airport with a note in his pocket saying she was returning him, that the boy had severe psychological problems and that the orphanage had lied about his condition.

"I no longer wish to parent this child," the note read, calling the boy a liability.

"This child is mentally unstable." Hansen wrote to the Russian Ministry of Education. "He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behaviours. I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues."

Russia has put a halt on all Russian adoptions to parents in the USA until an agreement about parental obligations is ironed out between the two countries.

In a related story, also covered by ABC News, Melissa and Tony Wescott are facing a similar dilemma. They claim to be afraid of their adopted son and are trying to change Oklahoma law so that they can return him to foster care.

"He tried to burn our home down. The note said, 'I'm sorry you had to die,'" Melissa Wescott told "Good Morning America."

She said she and her husband have found butcher knives under his mattress and lighters hidden in his bedroom.

Thoughts, comments, feelings, opinions?

It's Feedback Friday - Should there be a Return Policy on Adoptions?



  1. What a horrible thing ..to be petrified of a child living in your home. I have to say that no matter how 'bad' the child is their were 100 better ways to handle the situation. She put the child life in danger when she sent him off alone. I worked for a major airline for many years...since when could we pop underaged and unaccompanied young people on an international flight without proper documentation as to who is picking him up on the other end??? That baffles me. Very sad situation all around...that mom must have been at the end of her rope to do something so drastic. Maybe they are both unstable. Who will ever adopt this child now??

  2. How in the world is it okay to assume all the right and RESPONSIBILITIES as a parent for that child, and then to be able to say "I change my mind." Ummm... no.

  3. hmmm, there are moments when i wish i could send my kids back...
    seriously though, you can't, as a parent you tough it out. I think that all adoptive parents should be prepared to take that stance regardless of the situation. I remember reading of a woman who returned her adoptive 18 month old because she just didn't 'bond' with him like she thought she would. what crap. i'm not saying that it would be easy, but what would you do if your bio child ended up with the same kind of issues...we're talking kids here, not puppies.

  4. I wish I knew what the right answer is - I know everyone is feeling pain in this situation. I guess I'm praying that they find and answer for adoptive parents and children in need of families. That the in between people....well, they find a heart. Jennifer jennsthreegraces

  5. I realize that this adoptive mother must have been in dire straits to consider "returning" her child. She claims she was "misled" by the orphanage. My thought is, any parent, whether biological or adoptive wants to have a "perfect" child. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. When you give birth to a child, you never know what challenges you will face when you raise him. And, when you adopt a child, that risk is there also. You never know what challenges you will face, or what joys. Just some food for thought.

  6. This just seems to be a lose-lose situation. The orphanage should not have lied about his condition, and the parent should not have just put him on a plane to send him back. I don't know the answer...

  7. i understand the fear the this woman had, but what she did was so wrong. why couldn't she have taken him to a psychologist? or if it was as extreme as she said, taken him to a hospital? if the child is dangerous, she has just worsened his situation. As a mother she should have sought the treatment to help him.

  8. Once she made that commitment to take that little boy. SHE was his new mother, and mother's don't/can't return their children--at least good mothers anyway.

    The boy may have caused some temporary damage in her household or family, but with love and patience I bet it could have been over come.

    Now she has caused permanent damage in his life, and he may not be able to shake the feeling of being unwanted/unloved.

    Such a sad shame.

  9. I have a hard time being sympathetic with this one---she bought a child whose been in a Russian orphanage for 7 years and expected him not to have severe issues? Reeeeally? She expected them to be honest about these issues as she dangled a $30k check in front of their face...uh huh. (Did she not spend any time with him before she took him?) Completely irresponsible to put said broken child on an international flight by himself---shoulda put her big girl panties on and dealt with it properly!

    On a controversial side note, did we forget about the thousands of little kids stuck in foster care and orphanages right here in the states? I'm not judging international adoption, just saying that there's tons of kids here that need love and affection too.

  10. Such a somber topic - you can really see both sides of this issue. No easy answers. But you have to go into an adoption with eyes wide open and heart set on success, otherwise why put all the effort into making it happen? Esp. with overseas adoptions. And really, this child is going to suffer even more, and that's not ethical on the adult's part...

  11. Ugh, what do you say? I understand why she did what she did ~ I mean, if I felt I was in danger or any of my other children, I can't say I wouldn't THINK about it. But that being said, like many of the other comments, you CAN'T just send YOUR child "back" regardless of how they came to be with you. They are your children... regardless. I do agree with how the Wescotts are handling things. Legally. Scary, scary situation. I don't know their "story", but hopefully there are not other kids in the house. And hopefully people are not dragging their feet. There are so many child psychs., family psychs. hopefully those in these situations are able to find and use these resources.
    Geeze woman... swing by my blog today for a smile :)

  12. We are just about to foster care young kids here in Aus. We do comprehensive training before we are accredited to be a foster carer for obvious reasons (eg. troubled kids can be a handful, what to do when unexpected things happen). I'm not sure if your adoptions authorities do the same in US. Perhaps that would help. I imagine if a child was "unbearable", as terrible as it is, that parent made a decision (a choice, therefore not everyone would have done the same thing) and she will now live with that choice. I can understand her putting her child first. IF I were to receive a child in foster care, and I was not told about an issue they "were" aware of, then returning the child into the system should be a real possibility. IF they were "unaware", does it really change the fact. We as foster carers are not aloud to take "sexually abused" kids into our care, because we have young kids. Apparently they won't do that here because an sexually abused child often touches other kids inappropriately - that would be our kids. So if one came into our care, had been sexually abused, and the agency did not know at the time, would I send the child back? The answer is "it depends". And that's the truth. But it would be my choice and I would have to live with that.

  13. Some friends and I had a long conversation about this the other day (none of us are parents). It was very interesting. The women felt that once a child is adopted, nothing should be done to or for that child that wouldn't be done for one's own biological child. The men felt that adoption was simply different from having a biological child, and didn't see a problem with treating an adopted child differently in some situations. I don't know if that's universal or not, since we're all a little weird, but it was intriguing to see the split. And a little unsettling for the women.

    It makes me think of the explosion when Nebraska passed the law allowing surrender of children up to age 19, for any reason. People were outraged that parents were surrendering their children because of behavior problems. Why is it different with adopted children? Because a biological child's problems are necessarily the parents' own fault? Perhaps that's a natural instinct, but I don't think that can be correct. Any kind of parenting is a gamble. Or is it because adoptive parents are supposed to have more up-front information in exchange for taking on an extra responsibility? Maybe, but after a certain point that just doesn't seem feasible. Human beings are just too complex for that.

    It's such a horrible situation for everyone involved. The only thing I can think to do is have a healthy dose of sympathy for the parents and the children.

  14. I SO knew this was gonna be your feedback friday topic this week...I have A LOT of energy about this one (as a former social worker) so I will try to keep it brief...and hopefully not offend too many people.

    Children who have never been able to form an attachment to a "mother" or "father" as a baby can have SEVERE behavioral and emotional issues. We see the most in adoption situations...especially with children that were "raised" in orphanages. It's not their fault...but they are more difficult then any of us could ever imagine. Scary, destructive, hurtful...HARD. Many times these issues don't appear until a child is safely in a home and they begin feeling attached to this new "mother or father"...then they fight against it and all the horrible things begin happening. So a big part of me says to myself, don't judge this "mother". She just wanted to help a child from living his entire life in an orphanage.

    Here's where the other side jumps in...you CANNOT go into adopting a child without LOTS of education on children with sensory or attachment issues. I'm not talking about what she may or may not have been told by the orphanage...I'm talking about educating herself here from others that may have adopted, reading, talking to social workers, etc. I don't know if she did or not...but if she had, she would have realized that they ONLY way to survive is through a support system...others that can help her out during the difficult times. And if it got beyond difficult...she could turn to these people to figure out what the next step is. NOT putting him on a plane alone back to Russia.

    I can't imagine what she may have been going through...I can't imagine how scared and sad and broken she was...but as scary as sometimes this behavior can be...the child is just as scared and terrified...you take him from his "home" and the people and other children he knows...you take him from his country...you speak an entirely new language...you force your love on him because you think that will make everything happy and wonderful...and you expect him to be a well behaved child that just loves you back? If you think this is how foreign adoptions work, then shame on you for not getting yourself educated and shame on you for shipping him back, 'cause it will only be worse...you just proved to this child exactly what he was fighting against to help disprove...nobody wil ever love him...

    And amen to Shelly...why aren't we trying to take care of all the foster kids right here in our own country...

    Ok...not so brief...could you please pick a topic that I don't feel like I have to ramble on about:) Have a great weekend!

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  16. I'm am the parent of a child adopted from Russia.

    This story makes me feel sick. I haven't had any issues with my daughter, but if I had/or have in the future, I would NEVER even consider sending her back. I'm and her parent and we are her forever family. Adoptive parents have the opportunity to have a doctor visit their child before agreeing to adopt them. Evidently this woman chose not to do this. I'm hoping this boy finds a loving home with a family that will commit to him.

    On a side note, to Shelly that commented above, PLEASE do not refer to children that were adopted as being "bought" and I'd also like you to know that adoptive parents do not "dangle $30,000 checks" Your comments are extremely insensitive to both adoptive parents and their children.

  17. I am so thankful that there are so many good families that want to adopt and have adopted successfully. Adoption is not something my husband and I (at least at this time) feel is for us. I feel for the kids..I do. However, the challenges that can sometimes come with adoption is more than we feel we could handle. I in no way agree with how she handeled her situation and wish that she would have seeked out the support resources available.

  18. I am sorry that these parents are facing these challenges; however the same thing could happen if they had given birth to that child. When someone adopts a child that has been in an orphanage or in foster care they must realize and should be educated about the additional complications that come along with such an adoption before they adopt the child. Adoption is for keeps. Period. Adoptive parents assume responsibility for that person voluntarily. They don't get to treat a person as something purchased at a store and return that person if they are not as expected. Please.

  19. When I heard and read about this I was absolutely horrified. I mean I can't send mine back when they misbehave. Granted I don't feel that I am in any harm. I just feel her judgement went awry for whatever reason. What was she thinking when she put a seven year old on a plane with a note? This isn't a store where you can buy something and then make a return because you don't like it anymore!

    I am just shaking my head about this. You know children who are adopted are going to come with a lot of baggage and the people who go to adopt these kids need to understand that and if they are not equipped to handle everything that comes with that, then they should not be adoptive parents!

  20. In a word, NO! Do we get a money back guarantee when we give birth to a child?

    There a resources available to help with adoption issues. These don't appear to have been utilized in this case. Adoption is never easy, especially with older children. Good education before hand helps. Attachment disorder can be a problem for a child who has spent the majority of their lives being warehoused.

    In any event, I don't understand why there haven't been charges filed in this case. At the minimum, there should be a child endangerment arrest for both the adoptive mother and the grandmother. It just makes me ill that anyone would think you could just throw a child away or return them like a pair of jeans that don't fit.

  21. That is so scary! I don't know about all that. I think you definitely take a risk when adopting, especially older kids, and from another country. I think it would have to be delt with on a case by case basis. Wierd stuff!

  22. I talked with an adoptive family once that told me they had 4 kids, 3 at home and one in a residential treatment center. He was a threat to them and others so he had to be put in a place where he could be safe. It was not ideal, but they had to do it and were paying thousands of dollars a month and visiting him every weekend. Now THAT is dedication. There was not tossing him back into the ocean of orphans for them. They were commited to see him through until he was healthy and could be returned home. It was what had to be done. So do I think that adoptions should be allowed to be reversed. NO. I heard on a news report that Nashville has a huge post adoption support clinic that is located just an hour from where this mom lived in TN. And it has also been said she did not seek help and also told the agency when they called as early as March that things were fine. This woman is the one with the mental problems.

  23. a horrible situation all the way around. i feel badly for everyone involved. i don't know how educated the 'mom' was on attachment issues, etc. but in general, reading about such issues and living them, fearing for your life is i'm sure very, very different. if the situation was as drastic as she said (death threats) i'm not sure how anyone can ever truly be prepared to deal with that. i think what she did was wrong, but also feel there is plenty of blame to go around - and perhaps not enough compassion.

    on another note - i always find it more than a little off-putting whenever an international adoption gone wrong story comes out, so many people point fingers at the adoptive parents and ask why they didn't adopt from the US foster care? let me tell you, there are many, many reasons why someone might not. but the sad part to me is, this question never seems to be put to people who adopt domestically, 'infant' adoptions, nor for that matter, those who do not adopt AT ALL and choose instead to bring more children into the world. why is it that international adoptive parents are somehow thought to be more responsible for the foster care children? why does everyone else get an automatic pass? so easy to pass judgement w/o examining one's own pass on adopting from the US foster care. i have adopted twice internationally, there were many reasons i chose that route, rather than foster care - not the least of which, as a never before parent, i felt completely intimidated by adopting older CHILDREN...which in the majority of adoptable children in foster care (many children are in need of temporary foster care, not adoption) - OLDER CHILD SIBLING GROUPS need home. of course these chldren NEED and DESERVE a home, i however did not feel i had the skills, stamina, etc. to deal with the foster care system. i did what i believed was right for my family and the child - what are the reasons exactly for those who have NEVER adopted that think internation ap's should adopt from foster care, give themselves for not choosing to adopt from foster care?

  24. I'm not usually a double poster, but to reply back to Janet---I'm sorry if my comment insulted you, I am all for adoptions of any kind...But...that woman did Buy that child and when he didn't fit she returned him like a bad sweater. It is an atrocity that she tossed him away when the going got tough. And I find it extremely hard to trust any government to be truthful when they (all of them, not just Russia) use a child's well being for profit.

  25. How absolutely tragic. I don't know what I'd feel or do, I don't think I get to judge as I haven't been in this situation and it must be heartbreaking for everyone.

    My first instinct is "noooooo, what are you thinking!?" to the 'parents' but then to have someone in your home that you've barely got to know try and set fire to your house or hurt you? It must be hard, very hard.

  26. Well put Toni!!

    As an adoptive parent my heart breaks for the mother and child. Institutionalized children, especially those who spend years in an orphanage suffer severely from post traumatic issues and his behavior could have been well hidden in the small amount of time she was able to spend with him in Russia. Was there a better way to handle this? Absolutely. But, the mother who had come to the end of her rope obviously did not have the ability to think clearly/rationally. Neither did her other family members.

    Adoptive parents are put through so much in order to be deemed qualified to even parent and I see many bio families who would never have made it through the rigourous home studies we went through if they had been put through the home study process in order to create a family.

    Shelly's comment about buying a child is not true. Please, do some research Shelly, you will find that adoptive parents make donations to the orphanage to help them keep running and pay salaries for the caretakers and hopefully care for the children. Some countries are very corrupt about the process and the media loves to report on that. Your question as to why don't we parent children here shows a complete lack of understanding of the foster system and adoption system in the US. Thank you Toni for your wisdom and comment regarding the US system.
    Any adoption or foster care situation is not for the faint of heart.

    One of my friends who has one child through intnl adoption also tried to go through the foster system. The foster system needed to place a very troubled child--the caseworkers could not wait to get him off their hands-- but they did not mention any of this child's ptsd [post traumatic stress disorder] and issues before they called them late at night and brought the child to their house. They just wanted to be rid of this poor child and were no where to be found when the child started terrible behavior and tried to go after their first child [I will leave out the details]. They had to disrupt the foster placement and it broke their hearts.They wanted so badly to make it work but safety for their child and themselves was most important. The system here in the US needs a dramatic overhaul.

    Our child just happened to have been born in a foreign country and that is where God led us. Until you have walked a mile in an adoptive parent's shoes, please do not judge.

  27. as i was mulling all this over last night, another thought occurred to me. many people (here and elsewhere in cyber-world) have made comments about bio parents not being able to 'send the child back', but the fact is, that many bio parents in fact DO FAIL to raise their children. it is likely why this young boy was in an orphanage in the first place (possible that both parents could be deceased, but from my understanding of russian orphanages, that is not usually the case). it is also why there are so many kids in the us foster care system...failure for any number of reasons of the bio parents to be able/available to raise the children they brought into this world.
    and beth brings up another point - taking money out of the equation does NOT guarantee a system will be fraud-free. one only has to look at the US foster care system to know that isn't true. corruption is ripe - and for the reasons beth stated, case-workers are pressured and desperate to get kids into homes and are not above hiding important facts from adoptive parents.
    and since i'm on a roll, i'll throw out one more controversial thought - though i believe all children DESERVE a home, i don't believe all children are capable of being "homed". some children are so broken, at times from before their birth (drugs/alcohol in uterus), then horrors after they are born, make it in some cases, impossible for them to ever successfully live in a home...they need very structured, SKILLED, high level instutional care in order for them not to harm/kill others or themselves. the ugly truth is (imo) for some children, love is NOT enough...they have simply been through too much. ***i am not saying this is true in this case, not enough information. i am also NOT saying this woman did the right thing.
    and a final note about the $30,000. i'm not sure how accurate that number is - but i can say, that much of the money for international adoption stays right here in the good ole us of a - to the US adoption agency, the US govt, and also travel agencies. whenever a figure is thrown out like that, people not involved w/ international adoption wrongly assume the entire (or even majority) of it goes to the country the child is in. that is simply inaccurate.

  28. I heard about this and it just breaks my heart! I wonder what is going to happen to that little boy. I think the issue is very complex and I loved reading what your other commenters had to say. I have examples in my neighborhood of both sides of the issue. One of my neighbors adopted a little girl when she was six. The girl is now almost 16 and they have had terrible issues. She is not able to attach to her new family and has been in therapy all of these years. She had been abused for years by her birth mother's boyfriends and it has damaged her so much. It is heartbreaking to see.

    The other example is another one of my neighbors adopted two boys from Russia about 2 years ago when the boys were 12 and 14. I really wondered about it since the boys had been in an orphanage for years and were so old at the time of the adoption. But they are doing great. They fit right in in the neighborhood and at school. They speak english pretty well now and are doing great.

    So although I think it's easy to jump to conclusions and blame the adoptive parents, there might be underlying issues that we don't know about. Although it makes me so sad to hear that and I hope that that little boy is going to be ok.

    Good topic! I also wanted to come over and say thanks for following my blog! It is fun to get to know you better!


  29. Toni is dead on with both her comments. I was a foster parent for a year and it did us IN, but thankfully our son came home that way and I wouldn't take that back for the world!

    As far as the cost of adoption being "buying" a child. That is offensive always, ANY way you try to put it. Toni explains SO well why that is. We don't say people without health insurance who have to pay hospitals outright for their labor and delivery fees as having bought their children, and so it should never be said of an adopted child. It is just ignorant and ill informed to do so. Nobody in the adoption field whether in the U.S. or oversees is rolling in money because of adoptions. Come on, now.

  30. I've been constantly mulling over this post since I first read it, and have spoken to other adoptive families about it as well. There are several comments from Toni, Laurie, and Beth that speak knowledgeably about adoption -- and several others that don't. There are only a few new points I'd like to make. 1. Risk is not inherent in adoption. Risk in inherent in having a family. In having any relationship. That is for certain. 2. If you are not an adoptive or fostering parent, it would be very difficult to truly know about it. Without experiencing something, your knowledge is certainly limited. If you've never run a marathon, how can you explain it? Even if you trained, but didn't run, you are missing a giant piece. Adoption and foster care is a marathon.
    3. I think everyone is willing to agree that a terrible thing has happened to this family -- and the real question that bothers me -- WHERE was her support system? Where was the agency's SW and home visits? Were her friends and family giving her support, help or reaching out to her? And where are we that we sit around and read and comment and judge this woman for the choices she made for her family when we should be educating, volunteering, praying and reaching out to others who are in very similar situations every single day.

  31. I'm sorry that I missed this discussion. My feeling is that you can take a dog back, but not a kid. Watch "Problem Child" and you'll understand why. LOL. But I think it's smart for the two countries to discuss this as to have a process in place in the future if the parent reaches the unfortunate conclusion that there is no other alternative...


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