Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Hope the Russians Love Their Children, Too*

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 adoption"?

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.


*Sting, Russians


OpenID bringinghomebe said...

I second that motion.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 9:00:00 PM  
Blogger JenandAsh said...

I work in therapeutic foster care in NY and I am horrified by this story.

Did she ask for help? Did she get help? What this boy in therapy? Was he on meds? Did she contact the local department of social services or office of mental health?

There are so many options out there. Nullifying the adoption should have been the last thing she did, and most certainly, not in the way she did.

The fact that there are people making excuses for what she did? Disgusting. If this were her biological child, regardless of mental health stability or not, people would not be justifying what she did.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 9:11:00 PM  
OpenID J said...

Thank you Gretchen, I really appreciate what you wrote and the way you wrote it. Ackowledging the VERY difficult situations that older child adoption(esp older children who are "broken" as you put it), while at the same time holding to mother AND our government accountable for their actions....
Thank you for writing this, you expressed a lot of how I am feeling/thinking.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 9:32:00 PM  
OpenID J said...

do you mind if I link?

Sunday, April 11, 2010 9:33:00 PM  
Blogger LawMommy said...


No, not at all. Go ahead. And I went back and fixed some typos. I was typing furiously and hit publish before I put my kids to be. So, I feel better about it, with the typos fixed!


Sunday, April 11, 2010 9:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chandra said...

We adopted our daughter from Moscow, Russia in 2008. Russia requires at least 2 trips to the country. Both parents (or in this woman's case just herself since I believe she adopted as a single mother) MUST make the first trip to visit the child and sign the papers requesting to adopt the child. And both parents must attend the court hearing.

Therefore as far as I can tell, a child adopted from Russia would ALWAYS become a US citizen immediately upon landing in the US.

I am sure this boy is a US citizen as well as a Russian citizen (they keep their Russian citizenship until 18).

I just can't comprehend what went through this woman's mind.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I am disgusted by this story and this woman. I don't care what the "internet" lawyer she had. I don't care if the kid wanted to burn down the house. I don't care if the kid was mentally ill.

You go to your agency, you go to the social worker, you find help and get the kid help. I have encounter selfish people but this is really the most selfish act I have ever heard.

And, law broken? WTF! OF course there were laws broken!

Sunday, April 11, 2010 10:55:00 PM  
OpenID mrsbroccoliguy said...

I don't doubt that this woman was overwhelmed - like you, I know that feeling, though I can't come close to imagining how hard it would be with a child who had real, severe issues as this child likely has. That said, a few things really bother me.

1. She's an RN. Did she really have NO idea what kind of issues a 7 year old Russian adoptee might have?

2. Her agency is one of the good guys that apparently requires lots of pre- and post-adoptive support and education. Why did she not tell them she was having trouble?

3. I'm wondering about her local agency. Did they drop the ball? For that matter, what kind of effort did her SW give to the homestudy - was it a pure rubber stamp like so many of them are?

And now you've got me going and I think I have to write my own rant on my own blog rather than totally hijack yours...

Monday, April 12, 2010 9:43:00 AM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

I think this lady just "lost it". I really do. She probably had some sort of mental breakdown from the stress of it all. However, I cannot understand the grandmother's role in this. They say she had the idea to send him away. If she helped her daughter do this, then I am completely bewildered. I can fathom one person, all alone, doing something completely irrational under pressure but not a thought out plan of abandonment. There must be more to this. I can't imagine why they didn't call their agency.

Needless to say, it's a sad story for everyone involved.

Monday, April 12, 2010 1:14:00 PM  
OpenID lookingforgeorge said...

This whole situation is just so . . . ick. We all know things can go horribly, horribly badly in adoption, especially when the child is older, but I have all the same questions everyone else has. Did she contact her agency? Her social worker? If so, didn't they help her? Give her any options? What on earth could lead a person to sticking a little boy on a plane and sending him to the other side of the world on his own???? It is just wrong. But, at the same time, I try not to judge her because we don't know all the facts. I just can't imagine any facts that could logically, rationally lead to her actions. I truly hope her agency and/or social worker didn't just leave her hanging and feeling completely powerless, helpless and alone. But even then? She could have called her local children's services, talked to the staff at his school, etc. I just don't get it. At all.

Monday, April 12, 2010 1:41:00 PM  
OpenID metaphase said...

I know we went through some struggles even with our infant adoption. So I know that a seven year old from Russia could have some real problems. The thing is- I knew that before I adopted. Why didn't she?
I think of parents who find out their (bio)child has autism or some other brain disorder. It is heart breaking for them, but you know what? They seek out the help you need, even if it means hospitalization for a short time. Why did this woman feel she had the right to do this?
This additional abandonment only adds to this poor child's emotional issues.

Monday, April 12, 2010 1:51:00 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Thank you for writing this. Whether or not the adoption was finalized she was the guardian of this child. She had responsibilities and obligations that should have precluded her from dropping the child off, on Russia or at the local police station. I am am attorney, not in Tenn. While state laws are different they aren't that different. I'm appalled by the mother's behavior, stunned by the sheriff and confused as others have been by the lack of involvement of the agency or family and friends. As a single mom who has no family within 600 miles before I adopted I made sure that I had an extended support system. I adopted a younger child and have been blessed this far with a lack of issues such as this mom experienced. I'm so glad for my smaller issues I had my "village" of friends, "Vietmoms" and supportive if distant family. Where were these people for this mother and this child? Thanks for letting me vent.

Monday, April 12, 2010 2:12:00 PM  
Blogger Special K said...

I try not to judge. I don't know her circumstance. But I do know that there is no excuse for putting a 7 yr old child on a plane to Russia with a note that you don't want him anymore. It's completely unacceptable! No matter what the circumstance.

Monday, April 12, 2010 5:59:00 PM  
OpenID thedelightfuldelaney said...

So very, very well said. I really am livid with the situation, as I think we all are. That poor boy. Yes, I'd bet he's got some severe issues that need enormous resources, time and commitment. Yes, I'd bet the orphanage lied to her. As Chandra pointed out, that program requires two trips. The placement agency has a great reputation, who knows about the homestudy/post-placement, but who the freak adopts an older child, from Russia, and is a nurse, and does not have an inkling about some of the issues they may face? Did she have his file reviewed by a doctor, did none of these possible issues really comme up? Six months, that's all she gave him before she gave up, and endangered him. She throws him on a plane by himself and hires a random dude for $200 off the internet to pick him up. It makes my stomach absolutely lurch. Surely she will face charges, I hope substantial ones (same with her mother), right? Just when I think people cannot sink any lower, someone does.

Monday, April 12, 2010 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger MotherMotherOcean said...

Totally makes my head spin.

Did you sign the petition?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger William Dunigan said...


Greetings to one and all: In that most precious name. That name which is above every name, the name: "Jesus" ____There's tremendous power in that name. I'd suppose we'll never fully realize all that can truly be accomplished, by us simply calling out that name in true faith.____There's an old, old, gospel song that goes like this: Faith in the Father, faith in the Son, faith in the Holy Spirit, great victories are won. Demons will tremble and sinners will awake, faith in Jehovah will anything shake.____For you who have never come into this realization, if you're reading this, just give him a welcome into your heart and life. You will both feel and see an awesome difference. You will have also purchased the ticket to heaven (by accepting), therefore making him welcome to come into your life. You will also sup from His cup that contains living water. (As did the woman at the well of Bethesda.) John 4:10____Much love, ____Your brother in Christ Jesus, who is both our Lord, and "

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 4:42:00 PM  

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