Bad Seed: Russian Adoption Scandal

by Ouida on April 18, 2010

The stoy of Tory Hansen, a 33 year old nurse from Tennessee, and Artyom (Justin) Savelyev the boy Ms. Hansen returned to Russia is a story about which much has been said but little is actually known.  Google results for “Tory Hansen” and “Russian Adoption Return” yield few news stories with actual facts.  What we do know is the name of the adoptive mother Tory Hansen, the name of the adoptive child Artyom (Justin) Savelyev,  his age and the amount of time he spent with Ms. Hansen and her family before being returned to Russia.  We also know that the child was unaccompanied to Russia.  The media frenzy that has followed is shameful to say the least.  We have a psychiatrist on Fox News who, having never spoken with Ms. Hansen or examined the child, espouses that in our instant-gratification culture some people simply don’t deserve to be parents.  We have resorted to interviewing the taxi driver who ferried Artyom back to the orphanage and opined that the child looked normal to him.  And a Russian Ministry official has been quoted as saying “who would be afraid of a 7 year-old?”

No one except maybe, it seems, the child’s parents and extended family.

The New York Times editorial today entitled, “A Safe, Loving Home” at least admits that we do not know all the facts in this case.  Unfortunately the editorial also says, “But returning a child like he was a damaged pair of pants is profoundly wrong.”

Unfortunately, in our society, children have become commodities.  Prospective parents pay tens of thousands of dollars to infertility clinics to become pregnant.  When they finally do become pregnant, their pregnancies are termed “premium pregnancies” by their doctors and other medical personnel involved in their care.  A quick trip over to shows that international adoptions may cost prospective parents anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000.  During the adoptive process parents attempt to find out everything they can about a child and that child’s potential problems before attempting to integrate that child into a new family.  But the due-diligence process is anything but fool proof.  There may be incentive on the part of adoption agencies and orphanages not to disclose fully and antisocial behavior may not manifest until some attempt is made to socialize a child.

Fortunately the New York Times also included the articles, “In Some Adoptions, Love Doesn’t Conquer All” and “Adopting With Care, And for Good.”  Adoptive parents seem to have a great deal of compassion for Ms. Hansen.  Shirlee Smith foster parent and  former chair of the LA County Adoption Commission urges that we exercise care when considering this case, that it is not uncommon for children born and adopted in the US to be surrendered back to their adoption agency and that prospective parents may not be given accurate or complete information about the child they choose to adopt.

I personally know “Sam” who adopted and raised 3 sons.  When Sam relocated to New Mexico, he adopted a forth son, Tony.  The boy was 12 at the time he came to live with his new family.  The adoption was a nightmare.  Each of the children suffered abuse at the hands of this new family addition.  Sam’s home was turned into a war zone. Furniture was destroyed, holes were knocked into walls.  Sam worked with Tony extensively, then finally surrendered him back to the state at age 15.  A sad story indeed.

A somewhat thoughtful discussion that includes input by international adoption expert Joyce Sterkel suggests that parents may have few options when an adoptive child is violent and that adoption agencies that suggest they do may be disingenuous.

Honestly, I wish Ms. Hansen or a member of her family had accompanied Artyom back to Russia so that we could focus not on the manner of his return, but rather the steps that the US and International governments and prospective parents should take to assess the psychological needs of any child adopted into the US.

Please comment.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack April 19, 2010 at 10:14 am

I appreciate your objectivity and compassion in addressing this most difficult situation. Most never even seek to imagine the intense heartbreak and agony that would lead to the decision to give up a child for which you had dreamed, worked and sacrificed so much.


Ouida April 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Truth is that Russian adoptions have declined about 80% over the past few years so I think many prospective parents have gotten the message. It is a shame to have something that is supposed to be a family blessing turn out to be a nightmare.


kathy stocker April 21, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I have walked in this womens shoes and am still doing so although my daughter now lives in a group home and we see her every other weekend and holidays. I even went through the SAME adoption agency and begged for help and was given none. We did not have any education on attachment disorders at all prior to the adoption. I feel so sorry for the little boy, but sorrier for the adoptive mom because no one can even imagine what these children are truly like unless you have experienced it first hand. I KNOW she acted out of fear. I don’t support what she did ,but I totally understand it. These children can appear so normal to everyone else, but at home it is a completely different story. Also, they can hold it together for awhile(weeks or months) and then just lose it .I am sure she loved this little boy just as I very much love my daughter, but you know that they are dead serious when they are in a rege and out of control and it is dangerous for everyone. People should research Reactive Attachment Disorder and then ask themselves how they would cope. Very sad for both of them.


Ouida April 22, 2010 at 6:30 am

Kathy, thank you for writing this. What I have found is that adoptive parents are very compassionate and sympathetic toward Ms Hansen. I wrote this post because of an argument that I had with someone who has no children, has never adopted, but who was sitting in judgment of this whole situation. Once again, thank you!


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