SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Torry Hansen was so eager to become a mother that she adopted an older child from a foreign country – something that scares many prospective parents.
Torry’s mother, Nancy Hansen, said the 7-year-old’s violent episodes – which culminated in a threat to burn the family’s home to the ground – terrified them into a shocking solution: The boy they renamed Justin was put on a plane by himself and sent back to Russia.
Now, outraged officials in that country are calling for a halt to adoptions by Americans, and authorities are investigating the family. However, Hansen said to The Associated Press that the motives of her daughter – a 33-year-old, unmarried nurse – were sincere.
The family was told the boy, whose Russian name is Artyom Savelyev, was healthy in September when he was brought from the town of Partizansk in Russia’s Far East to his new home in the heart of Tennessee horse country. The skinny boy seemed happy, but the behavioral problems began soon after, Hansen said.
“The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to her because they wanted to get rid of him,” she said.
Hansen chronicled a list of problems: hitting, screaming and spitting at his mother and threatening to kill family members. Hansen said his eruptions were often sparked when he was denied something he wanted, like toys or video games.
Hansen said she thought that with their love, they could help him. “I was wrong,” she said.
Adoption experts say many families are blinded by their desire to adopt and don’t always understand what the orphans have sometimes endured – especially older children who may have been neglected or abandoned.
Hansen said her daughter sought advice from psychologists but never had her adoptive son meet with one. They chose an English-language home study program, hoping to enroll him in traditional school in the fall.
In February, Hansen said, the family could take no more. The boy flew into a rage, snatched a 3-pound statue and tried to attack his aunt with it. Hansen said he was apparently upset after his aunt asked him to correct math problems on his school work.
Hansen bought the plane ticket, and the family arranged to pay a Russian man $200 to take him from the airport and drop him off at the Russian education ministry. He arrived alone Thursday on a United Airlines flight from Washington.
With him was a note that read, in part: “After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child.”
Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, said during a radio interview Saturday that three Russian families have already come forward and asked to adopt the boy.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called the boy’s return “the last straw” after a string of foreign adoption failures, and officials in Moscow have called for a suspension of all U.S. adoptions in Russia – which totaled about 1,600 last year, according to the nonprofit U.S. advocacy group, National Council For Adoption.
The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the license of the group involved in the adoption – the World Association for Children and Parents, a Renton, Washington-based agency – for the duration of the investigation.