My head is spinning, SPINNING, from this horrifying story.
I know the media gets things wrong, dead wrong, sometimes. So, perhaps we don't have all the facts yet.
But, it seems that a Tennessee
mother, who adopted a Russian child six months ago, PUT HIM ON A PLANE and SENT HIM BACK TO MOSCOW, with a NOTE that said that she didn't want to parent him anymore.
And the sheriff of the county where she lives ISN'T SURE if ANY LAWS WERE BROKEN???
(Let me clarify a few things before I spout off.
1. I am not licensed to practice law in Tennessee
2. I am not involved in this case in any way, shape or form.
3. I am just a lawyer and an adoptive mom who has a small adoption law practice, particularly in the area re-finalizing foreign adoptions.
4. I am not an expert and this is just my (educated) opinion. )
This article (linked above) implies that whether or not any laws were broken depends on whether the child was a US Citizen.
Generally speaking, a child who has been adopted by a US Citizen, and who enters the country on a IR3 visa BECOMES A US Citizen at the moment that child enters the United States of America.
It is my understanding that most Russian adoptions are finalized in a Russian Court, usually after the parents have already seen the child. This would lead me to believe that the child probably would have entered the US on an IR3 visa, which would indicate that he became a US Citizen as soon as he landed on US soil.
(Again, I don't KNOW anything about THIS case in particular. Perhaps he entered on a IR4 visa, which would mean he would have to have his adoption re-finalized in a US court and then applied for a birth certificate and then a Certificate of Citizenship before becoming a citizen.)
But, I would hazard a guess that the child IS a US Citizen. However, even if he entered the US on a IR4 visa, it doesn't make the situation any less nauseating, and I don't see how it has any bearing on whether or not a crime was committed. Is it a lesser criminal act to neglect or abandon a child who ISN'T a US Citizen? If a family of immigrants did this to one of their biological children while living in the US, it would still be a CRIME.
In my experience in viewing documents from Russian adoptions, the adoption is final in the Russian court before the Russian government allows the parent or parents to leave Russia with the child. (I am curious to know if there is anyone reading this who knows of any circumstances in which the Russian government allows the adoptive parent or parents to leave Russia without issuing an adoption decree? I am genuinely curious about this - if you are reading this and have a child adopted from Russia, drop me a comment about this? Did you child enter on an IR3 or IR4? Did your child receive a CoC as a matter of course or did you have to apply for one?)
Here's the thing - once a government - ANY GOVERNMENT - issues a decree of adoption, that child becomes the LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ADOPTIVE PARENT. Exactly the same way that giving birth to a baby and walking out of the hospital with that baby creates a legal bond and obligation between a parent and a child. If this child's adoption was finalized in Russia or the US - HIS MOTHER WAS HIS MOTHER WAS HIS MOTHER - period. Full Stop. She was HIS MOTHER. With all of the legal obligations that motherhood brings with it.
So, in my opinion, the act of the adoptive mother of putting her child on airplane and sending him back to Russia is EXACTLY THE SAME, legally, as me putting Gabriel on an airplane and sending him away with a note saying I did not wish to parent him anymore.
That, in MY STATE anyway, would be a pretty clear case of child neglect and abandonment. Which is a crime (in my state). And I would expect that the State of Tennessee
also makes it a crime to neglect or abandon one's own child (but, as I have said, I am not licensed to practice there.)
It's not that I don't have any empathy for this woman. I have parented a child who came home at an older age. I know, intimately, how frustrating, exhausting, and hard it can be to try to learn how to love a child who doesn't want your love and who really, really wants to go "home."
And I also know that Lana was, all things considered, an "easy" older child adoption. Lana, certainly, never drew a picture of burning my house down, or threatened to kill me in my sleep. She is not violent, she is loving and lovable
But those first six months? Those first six months were hard. Really, really hard. I think, at one point, in my despair, I told Husband I felt like we had made a horrible mistake. I cannot stress enough that those first six months were hard
But never once, not in my WORST MOMENTS, did it cross my mind to try to return a child like a broken jacket from the Land's End catalogue.
And again, I know, Lana was not a difficult child in the way that I know that hurt children (dare I say broken children?) can be.
I do not doubt that this child was difficult to live with. I do not doubt that this child scared his mother. I do not doubt that this mother felt like she was in a desperate situation.
BUT BUT BUT - again, I say - children are not merchandise that can be returned!!!!
Where was the social worker who approved this family's homestudy
? Where was the adoption agency that facilitated this adoption? Did it never occur to this mother to call the social worker or the agency? Did it never occur to this mother to google the words, "broken adoption" or "disrupted adoption" or "revoked
I know that adoption agencies loathe these kinds of situations. I know that social workers hate to see these kinds of failures. But I can guarantee that if she discussed the situation with either the social worker or the agency THEY WOULD NOT HAVE TOLD HER TO PUT HIM ON A PLANE TO MOSCOW!!!! They would have quietly whispered the word, 'disruption'. (Presumably after suggesting any other number of options, like, oh, I don't know, FAMILY THERAPY?)
Didn't anyone, at any time, tell her that this child could be adopted by another family? Did she have knowledge of the adoption community? (I know the adoption community doesn't like to talk about the failures, but we know they happen! I mean, don't we know they happen?)
I don't blame this woman for failing to learn how to love and parent a child she found she couldn't parent. (Though I do wish she might have tried for more than six months.) But what I DO blame her for is becoming yet another person to have failed this child in what is, no doubt, a long line of people and entities that have failed this child on a massive scale. If she no longer wished to parent him? She had an obligation to find someone who could. She IS his MOTHER.
And if he IS a US Citizen? If he entered the US on an IR3 visa? He should not be stripped of that privilege
. If nothing else, he should be able to hold on to that.LM