I wasn't sure I was going to blog about this. It's a passionate subject for me (and for many), and I didn't know if I had anything to add to the discussion. Even as I type this, I'm not sure I'll actually post it.
Not because what I have to say isn't important. But because I want to be careful not to spill emotion without a point that goes beyond anger.
Last week, a woman from Tennessee took her adopted seven year old son and put him on a plane back to Russia. He traveled alone and was met at the airport by a courier his mother had found online. The note she'd given him said she couldn't handle him anymore and was giving him back.
Let's get the obvious out of the way. No one actually approves of what she did. But there are plenty who aren't ready to condemn it, either. The reasons I've heard basically circle back to this: he had serious issues, she feared for her family, and she had to do something.
Indeed, she did. Tragically, she did one of the most harmful things she could have done.
I won't address the risks of sending a seven year old alone on a flight to a foreign country. Or the risks of hiring a stranger off the internet to collect the child. (Had she never heard of child abusers?!) Or the terrible trauma she inflicted on this boy by sending him back like a pair of shoes that didn't fit.
What I'd like to address is the reactions of those who don't see her actions as child abandonment and endangerment. The sheriff in her town said he couldn't prosecute because he wasn't sure a crime had been committed. Why? Because the boy was adopted. People called in to my hubby's radio show to chastise anyone for judging this woman's actions as wrong. Why? Because the child was scaring the mother. People argued with me online that this woman needed to do something to protect her family.
And who was this boy, then? Not family? Somehow a second-hand citizen because he was adopted? Not worth being angry at the danger and trauma she inflicted on him?
Let's go ahead and put it out on the table: He had problems. Many older children who've lived in orphanages their whole lives do. He needed help. She needed help. Possibly she needed him out of the house. I won't argue with any of that.
My argument is with the idea that because he was adopted, what she did is somehow understandable or excusable.
I'll tell the story a different way. Let's say one of my sons starts making threats against my other children, me, or my house. Let's say he draws pictures that scare me. Let's say he verbalizes things that make my hair curl. Let's say I don't know what to do with him. Guess what? He was born in Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California. They're the ones who sent him home with me. Let's say one day I decide I've had enough, and I put him on a bus from Nashville to Thousand Oaks, with a note for the hospital administrators to reclaim this child because I don't want him here anymore. I go on the internet and hire a stranger to meet my son's bus and transport him to the hospital.
Would the nation be horrified? I certainly hope so. Would I be charged with a crime? I'd better be. What's the difference? Adoption.
Again, please hear that I'm not saying that little boy needed to stay in that home. What I am saying is she had options. She knew the risks. As an international adoptive mom, I can tell you the education before you can finish your home study is thorough and sometimes discouraging. She also knew she could call her social worker and get help. She could have had counseling for him from the state. Or he could've been placed with a family better equipped to handle his emotional state.
She didn't exercise any of those options. Instead, she willfully abandoned this boy, put him in danger, and increased the emotional trauma to him, and people stand back, look at it, and don't know how to feel because hey, he was adopted. It wasn't like he was really hers.
He was her son. That's what adoption means. It's not foster care. It's not a trial period. That boy wasn't a puppy she brought home from the pound and decided to return because he chewed up her furniture. He was her son. Adoption means fully committing yourself to the child you've chosen to parent. There's no difference in the love and care offered to an adopted child than there would be to a biological child. Or there shouldn't be. Sometimes, being a parent means you have to fight for your child by getting him treatment. Sometimes it means you have to ask for outside help. In extreme cases, it might mean working with a social worker to place the child in a home better equipped to handle the child.
This woman failed to understand the heart of adoption. She didn't behave like a mother. She showed tremendous lack of care and concern for this boy. And please don't tell me she was protecting her family. He was her family too. She had options that didn't include child endangerment. She chose to ignore them. The direct result of her actions is this: Russia has suspended all adoptions and 1800 waiting families and the orphans they were going to bring home are now left without options. And one little boy has received the message that he is unlovable, unwanted, and hopeless.
If her actions would be a crime against her biological child, they should be viewed as a crime against her adopted child. Adopted children are not less than. I'm angered and heartbroken that there are those, especially in positions of authority, who fail to see that.