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?