Return to Sender?


This week a mother in Tennessee decided to “return” her son to Russia.  She adopted him last September, and according to her he had many emotional problems. So she and grandma bought him a one way ticket back to his country of origin.  The story is so utterly disturbing to me it is difficult to write about.

In our day of instant gratification, it is so easy to give up when things get tough and get rid of things if they don’t work.  We should be picky and demand that things we buy like a new car or skinny jeans are of the highest quality and return them if they aren’t.  But this child was a human being. And, she was his mother.

We don’t return children. Whether you give birth to your child or you adopt your child, you are his/her parent. It is a commitment that you make forever – good or bad.  You don’t ship your children back. I am not saying you don’t think about it. My dad and I were discussing the issue and he admitted there were many times he thought about putting me on a plane somewhere. But he couldn’t think of where. 

It is a rare occurrence that an adoptive family returns a child.  It happens all the time with biological children – think of our overcrowded foster care system.

Torry Ann Hansen chose to adopt a 7-year-old boy as a single mom.  As a prospective adoptive parent or PAP (that is what we are called), I, along with many other couples and singles,  took many classes, learned more about child development than many parents, read many books on international adoption, had blood tests and have stacks upon stacks of papers signed and notarized.  But in all the training, reading, and writing, the notion that you might possibly want to return your child never came up.
The home study requirements differ by state and I am not certain what people in Tennessee must do in order to adopt, but typically there is a lot of post-adoption care and visits they are required to complete.  In all the media coverage I have read a lot about her international agency (which is very reputable), but I haven’t once read about her state home study agency. I’d be interested to find out more about what they did. 

This woman could stop the adoption program in Russia.  I know many people who have adopted beautiful, healthy children from Russia and there are many people who are currently in the process of adopting who could be prevented from moving forward.  In fact the NYT quoted a family who was in the process and now are praying they are allowed to move forward. (


An American couple who was nearing the end of the process of adopting a Russian baby reacted with despair to the news that the Russian government would suspend adoptions. The couple, who asked that their names not be used to avoid offending the Russian authorities, had already visited Moscow once to take care of the legal procedures, and was planning to return soon to receive the baby.

“My heart is sinking,” the father said. “We knew about laws changing in midstream, that these foreign governments are very bureaucratic, and that there is a lot of posturing that causes delays. But we picked Russia because it seemed like we had a pretty good chance. Now we don’t know what to do.”

It is horrible to think that the entire Russian adoption program is now in jeopardy because this woman did not seek the help she needed. 

Lady, you not only did a disservice to all the people who are awaiting their children from Russia and other nations – you could potentially disrupt our country’s relationship with Russia.   


While we await a final decision from the Russian government, my adoption agency has asked for the following help and I encourage you all to sign the petition.



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  • I think we need to reserve judgment. There are many, many stories about countries misrepresenting the physical or mental health of a child that's available for adoption. Especially Russia. But just this week, a friend who was adopting a girl from Nepal, arrived to pick up her daughter only to find she couldn't walk - something that had been kept from her. Imagine her shock. It turned out to be rickets and she took her daughter home and is treating her. As to the mom who returned her son to Russia - who knows what ends she'd gone to to help her child, who threatened to kill family members and burn down her house. I think this is more a statement of how the system failed her, not the other way around.

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