Monday, April 19, 2010

A Tiny Rant About Adoption Give-Backs

So, of course since we're now officially part of the adoption world, I have an opinion on the recent brouhaha involving the mother who decided to give her adopted son back to the country from where he was born. If you perhaps have been trapped under a rock and have not heard about this horrific incident, you can catch up on the details here.

In a nutshell, after approximately eight months of parenting this seven-year-old child, adoptive mother Torry Hansen realized he had too many psychological problems for her to handle, so she packed his things and sent him back to Russia -- alone -- with a note explaining why she was returning her damaged goods.

First let me say that just because we are now in the process of adopting, I have not drunk the Kool-Aid. I don't believe every adoption goes smoothly. I know love isn't enough to cure a horrible case of reactive attachment disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome, or to reverse the effects of systematic abuse. I also know that many adoptive parents are woefully under-prepared for adopting children, that the process is probably failing many of them. And I also know that Torry Hansen clearly needed help with her new son.

But here's the thing, this should not be a story about the failings of adoption, which the media has deemed it to be. This is a story, in my mind, of child abandonment, plain and simple. I don't think analyzing how the child entered the family is relevant. Would the woman's actions be less horrific (or more) if she put a child she gave birth to on an airplane bound for somewhere else or left him on a doorstep in a different city? What if it were her step-child? Would that matter? Essentially, by allowing this story to be about adoption, then we are tacitly agreeing that our adopted children aren't our real children. Then we are admitting that we don't, in fact, really love our adopted children as much as our real children, or worse, that our adopted children are somehow worth less. Isn't that what's going on here, by the simple fact that we are discussing just how horrible "those children" from Russian orphanages really are? That while Hansen's behavior was heinous, we kind of understand why she did it.


If Torry Hansen couldn't figure out how to handle her son's behavior, then like all parents with troubled kids, she should have gone for help. Where? To her adoption agency. To social services. To a therapist. To an in-house facility for troubled kids. Worse case scenario, she could have surrendered her parental rights, temporarily or permanently, and put him into foster care. She could have even dropped him off at a local fire station, knowing he'd be taken care of and not have his life risked by putting him on a trans-Atlantic flight with no guarantee that he'd be taken care of upon arrival. Obviously I was not living with Hansen, so it may be easy for me to offer up all of these wonderful solutions, but the fact of the matter is, being a mother comes with a buttload of responsibility. And I would posit, that if Hansen's son wasn't adopted, but was having similar issues, she'd have figured something out.

Let me put it another way. I would say that if Torry Hansen was a poor woman of color who'd left her child in a gas station bathroom, she'd probably be demonized by the press as the worst mother possible. The story would be about the mother, not the system. Why is Torry Hansen any different? Oh, right, because her son, wasn't really her REAL son. He was adopted.

At the end of the day I'm thinking like a lawyer. Legally, this little boy belonged to Hansen. If she's not prosecuted for child abandonment and endangerment, then she's created a precedent for all mothers, for when our children are too much to handle, we can revert to a favorite childhood trick, and just call Give Backs! Or maybe that's just for adoptive parents. If we don't like the kids we're given, then we can package them back up and return to sender.

What do you think?


Emerson Zora said...

Thanks for making these points, Lori. This makes me very sad, and I, too, feel like this is a case of child abandonment--PERIOD. Once we choose to be parents, we accept the challenges, pleasures and pain that come with parenting; adoptive parents do not get a "give back" pass because their children did not come from their loins. Placing more value on one child's life and well being over another for any reason is a dangerous psychological place.


Alida said...

my hubby and I have been saying this since the story broke. this is child abandonment pure and simple. I have not read anything suggesting that she tried family counseling or any kind of therapy for him at all. this is an outrage and and it is just wrong. She put him on an international flight alone with a note... how could you do that to a child?!

ieishah said...

wow. tell us what you really think! lol! you weren't lying when you called this post a rant...

real talk, though, i agree. why would you do to an adopted child, something you wouldn't do to a biological? that he wasn't her 'real' son is a ridiculous justification. you adopt children, you adopt full responsibility, *sea lo que sea*. if not, the system falls apart.

Anonymous said...

"sea lo que sea"? no, i disagree. what if this woman was indeed duped by the russian adoption authorities and information about the child's severe emotional problems had been withheld? based on what has been reported in the media, the boy was violent and had threatened to burn down the their house.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't even finish reading the news article. It's an atrocity -- the boy was abused at the orphanage in Russia and then a second time in the U.S. and was just thrown back. I pray that one day he might be healed.

SweetKinks said...

I agree with you. It irks me when there are stories involving disobedient kids, and it's almost like the blame for that is on everyone/thing else besides the people who SHOULD be raising the kids.

Plus the mother should be charged with abandonment, if she had the effort to adopt him in the first place then she should have the same effort to appropriately let the child go.

I am very disappointed in her actions. I have a dream to adopt from every continent [YES!] when I am older and know that I am prepared for that kind of responsibility and the drastic and non drastic changes I will go through. News like this just makes my head steam.

LT said...

I agree. Obviously :)

I'm glad I'm not the only one. Checked out your blog. What a wild ride you're on!

Was it that bad :( Sorry, I was feeling it.

You def. bring up a question I'm sure many people are asking. but at the end of the day, he was still her son, and if she was in fact duped, then her revenge should have been on the agency, not the child.

I feel the same way.

Or should just call you little Josephine Baker with your dreams of a rainbow family :) I'm glad to see young people are equally upset by this story. Thanks for sharing.

ieishah said...

yes, anonymous, in adopting you accept full responsibility, sea lo que sea. even if the adoption agency duped you. putting a minor on a plane to nowhere solo is not the answer. i'm sure there are better ways of handling such things, as lori pointed out. even a give-back can be handled in a way that honors your responsibility to the child and DOESN'T SUCK.

JBH said...

Hi LT,

Sorry I've been silent in the blogosphere for a while...but...I'm BAAAACK!

I didn't address this on my own blog because these stories make me too upset to formulate my thoughts!

As an adotpee, I know that I have emotional challenges to work through. But I hate the way the media keeps potraying the "horror" of adoptees as "damaged goods" that can be "returned." WE ARE NOT COMMODOTIES. WE ARE PEOPLE.

Thanks for sticking up for adoption!