Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not Less Than

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.


  1. Thank you so much for that. I believe very passionately in adoption and my heart breaks for that child.

    I cannot imagine the further damage that has been done to him. She has proven what has been reinforced in his life, a life where he has already experienced abuse and abandonment: that he wasn't worthy of love.

    And that breaks my heart.

    You're so right. He is not a puppy, he's not a pair of shoes, he's a child. He deserved unconditional love. He deserved help. He deserved a mother who would take the time to get him what he needed, even if it was outside of the home.

  2. I agree 100%. The moment she signed the paperwork, this child was as much hers as if she gave birth to him. His problems became hers, for better or worse. She should be prosecuted, just as any other parent who put their child on a plane to Russia alone would be.

    Shame on her. Shame on anyone who believes she "had cause." Shame on the sheriff for not being sure there was a crime. Shame.

  3. I fully agree. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Amen. I can't even wrap my head around this case. That poor boy. And all those families waiting, all those children waiting to be adopted. It's a disaster and a tragedy all around, and that woman should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

  5. Thank you.

    As an adopted child, I am truly honored you would speak up so eloquently. I won't get into the sometimes lame psychology of being adopted, but it was hard. Still is. Because my biological mom decided her 'recreational activities' were too important, I'm Bipolar. If my REAL mom had sent me back to the system the way this Tennessee woman had, I would have more seriously considered suicide.

    No, seriously.

    This young boy now has to carry the message that, not ONLY did his biological mother not want him (and it doesn't matter if she couldn't afford it, a child will ALWAYS feel unwanted, trust me), but EVERY OTHER potential mother would want him just as little as the first.

    I am utterly horrified of the actions of this woman. A child is a great gift, even with it's burdens. The notion that an adopted child is less than makes my throat close up over the screams. Why this woman has yet to face the consequences of her actions, I don't know. The fact that I have to think, to type that sentence is painful.

    There are so many more ramifications, too. International relations could be at risk because this [%&^%#@! %^#&^] woman didn't like her kid and returned him with a [*&^$@!#] receipt. 1800 other families and potential additions have to suffer because she took the easy way out. And this one precious child will forever have to live with the knowledge that not one, but two moms decided he "wasn't good enough."

    I can only thank the families that have given loving homes to those children without them, and the families that still want to. I hope the Tennessee woman is forced to bare the brunt of her misdeeds, and soon.

  6. As an adopted child, I concur 100%

  7. What a relief to know that I'm not the only one horrified by that mother's actions. Horrified by the damage this woman did to that boy.

    Raising boys is a challenge. One of my sons in particular is challenging. But I cannot conceive of someone who would just give up on a child that SHE CHOSE that way.

    Honestly, I can't blame Russia for it's response.

  8. I love that you're able to speak so eloquently in your anger.


  9. I applaud you. That woman's behavior is appalling! I was adopted by my step-father, when my mother remarried, and his family has always treated me as an outsider. I don't get it. My father has always been awesome towards me, but unfortunately not his family. In turn, I treat my stepson as if he were my own son because HE IS! You make choices in life, and just because you don't like every outcome, does NOT give anyone the right to "return to sender". Ugh. That's just simply wrong, but thank you for sharing. I understand your passion and salute your integrity.

  10. I hadn't heard this story at all, but I got chills reading it. It's difficult for me to understand this, I guess. I've never felt like that, worried that one of my children might be dangerous, but it seems to me an adopted child is still yours to love, yours to protect and to heal and to mourn and to find help for as if you'd given birth to him. I can't even imagine what must have gone through this poor child's mind the moment his mother put him on that plane and said goodbye forever, good luck with things, get help. It seems like it would take a miracle to keep this child from being broken forever now. This makes me so sad.

  11. I hadn't heard this story, and I'm sitting here in tears. Completely aside from how awful the situation is, how appalling the mother's behavior, I know a little about Russia, and what the likely end result of this cruelty will be. My heart is just breaking for that little boy.

  12. I agree with you. She had options but did not take them. Instead she put him on a plane and sent him home alone. This child will be scared for life because of her actions. No child should have been treated this way. I don't think she was the kind of person who should have adopted in the first place and maybe this was the only way she could adopt, was to go to Russia.

    My daughters husband passed away last Oct of Renal Sarcome and his then 12 yr old daughter lived with them. She did not want to go home to TN to her Mom and my daughter talked to her Mom and she is now staying here with her. She is not my natural grandaughter but I still treat her the same. I am involved with her track, tumbling class, band, etc. My daughter works so I am the one who picks her up and takes her from one place to another. Of course this now 13 yr old has problems but my daughter is working thru them and I help when if I can. We have not said we would send her back to her mom if she misbehaved. She is recieving counseling to find out why she is having trouble with her school work so we are doing everything we can to help her. She spends alot of time with me because of her activities and I try to teach her little things she needs to know yet not preach. Sorry I got on my soapbox but everyone has problems and they don't sent the child back.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com


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