Monday, August 2, 2010

Discerning the Bad Guys, Treating Children As People with Rights

Of all the posts that I've made on this blog, the ones that resonate most deeply with me have been those about Artyom, the Russian boy returned alone on a flight to Moscow by his purported mother, Torry Hansen. I cannot forget this child and cannot help but contemplate his tragic fate. As the adopter of an attachment disordered child myself, I have definite thoughts on the difficulties of the process. Because adoption is a process, and sometimes I think that it's a lifelong one. (Especially currently, as I literally goad and prod my child into the realization that he's part of a family and it's a model for being part of a community and that everyone has to contribute.... sigh.) Anyway, mindful of my strong feelings on the issue, I can assure you that it was with heavy heart that I read, last Friday, ironically as I departed to pick up my bright, adopted son at an academic program in North Carolina, the news that Artyom Savelyev was back in an orphanage in Russia. Several friends of the blog sent me articles on the boy, from the NY Times to the Moscow Times.

Artyom's case has single-handedly changed the way adoptions of Russian children in the USA are effected. Reportedly, of the 60,000 Russian children that have been adopted by Americans, at least 12 have died violent deaths. There are all these new rules that have been put in place to prevent further problems with the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Somehow, though, it seems to me that the problem isn't single parents vs. married parents, or straight parents vs. gay parents, but rather making sure that people are ready to be parents and not just parents but parents of damaged, needy and challenging children. Whose role is it to assure that? And when are parents honest enough to discern what they're up to dealing with? Artyom wasn't killed violently. This child has been killed, at least emotionally, slowly, insidiously and with deliberation on the part of the Hansens, and probably as well by the adoption agency that handled his case and by the Russian orphanage that may indeed have allowed placement of a very damaged child without properly revealing the child's needs. He has been harmed by rejection so flagrant, so public (for surely he will be reminded of it, in the present by other children, but likely in one way or another for the rest of his life) that the damage can only accrue more, and more deeply, as time passes. So whatever changes have been made, whether they address the underlying problems of adoption accurately or not, they are too late for this child.

Currently, Artyom is caught in legal limbo. Torry Hansen, his abandoning, adoptive mother, is still the legal parent of the child and thus he cannot be adopted until that relationship is terminated legally. Although a Russian diplomat and his family had expressed interest in Artyom, that option has evidently failed to pan out.  Meanwhile, the Tennesseean Shelbyville Times-Gazette also reported Friday that Larry Crain, the attorney for World Association for Children and Parents, the agency which placed Artyom with the single mother Torry Hansen, filed a court petition in naming Jennifer Terhune as "an adopted mother who is willing to serve as guardian for the minor child," as if they still hold some (belated) ability to influence this child's fate. Terhune, reportedly a mother of three adopted children, is a shadowy and unknown quantity in this situation. The World Association for Children and Parents have sought to have the matter remanded to the Juvenile Court, as in a filing of abuse and/or neglect on the part of Hansen. The proof of abuse or neglect, in spite of Hansen's very public abandonment of the child, remains a sticking point legally, however. A hearing in the matter is set for August 12. 

So many people seem to have failed this child. From the Russian Agency dealing with WACP, to WACP and their questionable examination of the fitness of adopters to Torry Hansen and her mother Nancy, who sent a then 7 year old child off alone on a plane back to Moscow and to his self-reported abusers, and most certainly to some uncertain, unhappy fate.

Maybe Artyom is really mentally ill. Maybe, just like his drawing of his house set afire suggested, he is frighteningly unbalanced.

But who was helping this child? Who was really getting burned here?

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


  1. Poor child. It's a real pity that adoptions like these can occur without an in-depth profile of the prospective adoptive parent(s). "gnōthi seauton..."

  2. I'm sorry. I'd like to say something sensitive and insightful, but when I read something like this my brain just locks on anger: someone, somewhere should pay for this with their blood.

    This is precisely why I should never be given Vast Supernatural Powers. I'd use them.