Grandmother: Boy terrified adoptive kin
Torry Hansen was so eager to become a mother that she adopted an older child from a foreign country, two factors that scare off many prospective parents. Her fear came later.
The Associated Press
SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — Torry Hansen was so eager to become a mother that she adopted an older child from a foreign country, two factors that scare off many prospective parents. Her fear came later.
Torry's mother, Nancy Hansen, said the 7-year-old's violent episodes — which culminated in a threat to burn down the family's home — terrified them into a shocking solution: The boy they renamed Justin was put on a plane by himself and sent back to Russia.
Officials in Russia are calling for a halt to adoptions by Americans, and authorities are investigating the family. However, Nancy Hansen said the motives of her daughter — a 33-year-old, unmarried registered nurse — were sincere.
"The intent of my daughter was to have a family, and the intent of my whole family was to love that child," she said Friday.
While her actions were condemned by Russia's president and U.S. diplomats, the sheriff investigating the case said it's not clear if anyone can be charged.
"You know, you look at it, and it's hard to say exactly if a law has been broken here," Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce said.
The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the license of the group involved in the adoption — the World Association for Children and Parents, a Renton, Wash.-based agency — for the duration of an investigation.
Bob Tuke, a Nashville attorney and member of American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said abandonment charges against the family could depend on whether the boy was a U.S. citizen.
It wasn't clear if the adoption had become final.
There was no response to a knock at Torry Hansen's door Saturday.
The family was told the boy, whose Russian name is Artyom Savelyev, was healthy in September when he was brought from an orphanage in Partizansk in Russia's Far East, to his new home in the heart of Tennessee horse country. He was sent to the orphanage after his mother, an alcoholic, lost her parental rights, officials said.
The boy seemed happy at first, but the behavioral problems began soon after, Nancy Hansen said.
"The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to her because they wanted to get rid of him," she said.
She chronicled a list of problems: hitting, screaming and spitting at his mother and threatening to kill family members.
She said his eruptions were often sparked when he was denied something he wanted, such as toys or video games.
Hansen said she thought that with love, she and her daughter 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.
"They're not prepared to appreciate, psychologically, the kinds of conditions these kids have been exposed to and the effect it has had on them," said Joseph LaBarbera, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Hansen said her daughter sought advice from psychologists but never had her adoptive son meet with one. She and her daughter 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 upset after his aunt asked him to correct math problems on his school work.
Nancy Hansen said she accompanied the boy on a flight to Washington, where she put him on a direct United Airlines flight to Moscow on Wednesday.
She had found a guide over the Internet who for $200 agreed to pick up the child at the airport and to drop him off at the education ministry.
She said she therefore had not abandoned the child.
He arrived in Moscow on Thursday. With him was a note from Torry Hansen 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 Saturday that three Russian families had 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 called for a suspension of all U.S. adoptions in Russia, which totaled about 1,600 last year, according to the U.S. group the National Council For Adoption.
Material from The Seattle Times archive is included in this report.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.