As if life as a child isn't difficult enough, especially an orphaned and obviously unwanted one, the recent story of the Hansen family and their rather startling behavior of transporting by plane their adopted Russian son back to the homeland strikes at the heart of what is out of balance with our international adoption program.
The Hansen's couldn't parent the boy any longer ostensibly because of 'psychotic' episodes, including threats to burn the house down, complete with drawings of the house in flames, with the family inside.
One's first thought might be, 'that kid is crazy---he needs to be in a children's psychiatric hospital.' or alternately, 'that kid is mad as hell, and didn't appreciate or understand his being ripped from his culture and plopped down in Tennessee, where it would be surprising to find a handful of people in the entire state who understood the Russian language.'
Was the boy fluent in English? Was he given information about what it might mean to live in an entirely different culture? Do the Hansen's speak Russian and have a deep understanding of Russian culture?
The entire adoption process needs a serious second look. Most particularly, the international adoption program.
Could anyone reasonably expect that six year old boy to behave 'properly' and not act out seriously given the mind numbing combination of experiences and events he faced? Think about it. He is an orphan, and he is not a baby. He was raised through his formative years in Russia, in Russian society, learning Russian behavior.
What if an orphan in Tennessee, at roughly the same age, was plucked up and deposited in the middle of Russia? Just reverse the circumstances. Does anyone have any issues understanding how traumatic that would be for any six year old?
What in the hell were the Hansen's thinking?
Are there no children in Tennessee who need a loving home? The logic is truly convoluted, and the Russian government is absolutely correct by suspending the program. Hopefully, they will cancel it altogether.
But, of course, the child-handling experts have sallied forth with their own opinions.
International adoption expert Joyce
Sterkel of the Ranch
For Kids Project, which helps "at risk" adopted kids,
predominantly from Russia, said that she was not surprised that some
parents are sympathetic to Torry Hansen's situation.
"I would say overwhelmingly, anyone who has parented a post-institutionalized child with difficulties is very sympathetic with this mother, even though they may not agree with the manner by which she handled it," Sterkel said.
Well, if this is true, by what standard
do they proceed? Are there simply no answers in Russia?
Sterkel said while many expect "love heals," that a child's genetic foundation, including inter-uterine exposure to alcohol during a mother's pregnancy, cannot be loved away.
"It's a problem everywhere [that] pregnant women drink, and certainly in Russia that's the case. That can cause permanent organic brain damage."
Ms. Sterkel's sweeping generalization
certainly puts the matter in perspective. How many pregnant Russian
women drink vodka? How does she obtain any legitimate statistics in
Debbie Robinson, executive director of Miriam's Promise adoption agency in Nashville, told CBS News, "This child could've been placed with a qualified, licensed agency for placement services so that . . . somebody like us, or Catholic charities, could've found a family."
Unfortunately, this is the kind of arrogance which promulgates the terrible issues of emotional upheaval in the adoption process. Why do otherwise educated people insist they can heal a problem, when they simply cannot, by any measure?
And further study of Catholic
institutions and responsible behavior leaves much to the imagination.
Unfortunately, the stench of a huge scandal is carried by
Sterkel said that adoptive parents who find themselves in a situation with a violent child often have few options.
"Saying the woman can go back to the adoption agency and turn the child over to them - no adoption agency will take a 7-year-old child with these problems," Sterkel said. "Social services probably will not help you. They will not take the child into foster care. You have the child, and once you've totally exhausted all your financial resources, then perhaps you can get some help. But as long as you have any financial resources, you won't get any help, you'll have to pay for it.
"I've seen parents spend tens of thousands of dollars on psychiatric facilities, elaborate treatments, medications, and all of it failed," she said.
Well, there you have it. It all
failed. Case closed.