Russia Furious Over Adopted Boy Sent Back From US

By: Nataliya Vasilyeva & Kristin M. Hall - AP Writers
By: Nataliya Vasilyeva & Kristin M. Hall - AP Writers

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia threatened to suspend all child adoptions by U.S. families Friday after a 7-year-old boy adopted by a woman from Tennessee was sent alone on a one-way flight back to Moscow with a note saying he was violent and had severe psychological problems.

The boy, Artyom Savelyev, was put on a plane by his adopted grandmother, Nancy Hansen of Shelbyville.

"He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the actions by the
grandmother "the last straw" in a string of U.S. adoptions gone
wrong, including three in which Russian children had died in the
U.S.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos,
Dmitry Medvedev said the boy "fell into a very bad family."

"It is a monstrous deed on the part of his adoptive parents, to
take the kid and virtually throw him out with the airplane in the
opposite direction and to say, 'I'm sorry I could not cope with it,
take everything back' is not only immoral but also against the
law," Medvedev said.

The cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign
adoption failures are reported prominently. Russian main TV
networks ran extensive reports on the latest incident in their main
evening news shows.

The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the license
of the group involved in the adoption - the World Association for
Children and Parents, a Renton, Washington-based agency - for the
duration of an investigation. In Tennessee, authorities were
investigating the adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, 33.

Any possible freeze could affect hundreds of American families.
Last year, nearly 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the United
States, and more than 60,000 Russian orphans have been successfully
adopted there, according to the National Council For Adoption, a
U.S. adoption advocacy nonprofit group.

"We're obviously very troubled by it," U.S. State Department
spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington when asked about the
boy's case. He told reporters the U.S. and Russia share a
responsibility for the child's safety and Washington will work
closely with Moscow to make sure adoptions are legal and
appropriately monitored.

Asked if he thought a suspension by Russia was warranted,
Crowley said, "If Russia does suspend cooperation on the adoption,
that is its right. These are Russian citizens."

"Child abandonment of any kind is reprehensible," said Chuck
Johnson, acting CEO of the National Council For Adoption. "The
actions of this mother are especially troubling because an already
vulnerable, innocent child has been further victimized."

The boy arrived unaccompanied in Moscow on a United Airlines
flight on Thursday from Washington. Social workers sent him to a
Moscow hospital for a health checkup and criticized his adoptive
mother for abandoning him.

The Kremlin children's rights office said the boy was carrying a
letter from his adoptive mother saying she was returning him due to
severe psychological problems.

"This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe
psychopathic issues," the letter said. "I was lied to and misled
by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental
stability and other issues. ...

"After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for
the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to
parent this child."

The boy was adopted in September from the town of Partizansk in
Russia's Far East.

Nancy Hansen, the grandmother, told The Associated Press that
she and the boy flew to Washington and she put the child on the
plane with the note from her daughter. She vehemently rejected
assertions of child abandonment by Russian authorities, saying he
was watched over by a United Airlines stewardess and the family
paid a man $200 to pick the boy up at the Moscow airport and take
him to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.

Nancy Hansen said a social worker checked on the boy in January
and reported to Russian authorities that there were no problems.
But after that, the grandmother said incidents of hitting, kicking,
spitting began to escalate, along with threats.

She said she and her daughter went to Russia together to adopt
the boy, and she believes information about his behavioral problems
was withheld from her daughter.

"The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to her because
they wanted to get rid of him," Nancy Hansen said.

She said the boy was very skinny when they picked him up, and he
told them he had been beaten with a broom handle at the orphanage.

Joseph LaBarbera, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt
University Medical Center in Nashville, said adoptive parents are
many times not aware of the psychological state of children put up
for adoption.

"Parents enter into it (foreign adoption) with positive
motivations but, in a sense, they are a little bit blindsided by
their desire to adopt," said LaBarbera, who specializes in the
psychological evaluation of children and has worked with a number
of children adopted from Russia and other foreign countries.
"They're not prepared to appreciate, psychologically, the kinds of
conditions these kids have been exposed to and the effect it has
had on them."

Russian state television showed the child in a yellow jacket
holding the hands of two chaperones as he left a police precinct
and entered a van bound for a Moscow medical clinic.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, said he was "deeply
shocked by the news" and "very angry that any family would act so
callously toward a child that they had legally adopted."

Anna Orlova, a spokeswoman for Kremlin's Children Rights
Commissioner, told The Associated Press that she visited the boy
and he told her that his mother was "bad," "did not love him,"
and used to pull his hair.

Russian officials said he turned up at the door of the Russian
Education and Science Ministry on Thursday afternoon accompanied by
a Russian man who handed over the boy and his documents, then left,
officials said. The child holds a Russian passport.

Rob Johnson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of
Children's Services, said the agency is looking into Friday's
allegations, although it does not handle international adoptions.

Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce also said Torry Hansen was
under investigation, but he hasn't interviewed the Hansens because
their lawyer has advised them not to talk.

Lavrov said his ministry would recommend that the U.S. and
Russia hammer out an agreement before any new adoptions are
allowed.

"We have taken the decision ... to suggest a freeze on any
adoptions to American families until Russia and the U.S.A. sign an
international agreement" on the conditions for adoptions, Lavrov
said.

He said the U.S. had refused to negotiate such an accord in the
past but "the recent event was the last straw."

Pavel Astakhov, the children rights commissioner, said in a
televised interview that a treaty is vital to protect Russian
citizens in other countries.

"How can we prosecute a person who abused the rights of a
Russian child abroad? If there was an adoption treaty in place, we
would have legal means to protect Russian children abroad," he
said.

Stephen Flanagan, senior vice president at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the strong
Russian reaction should not be a surprise.

"It's another sign of their incapacities at home, so when they
see a former Russian citizen overseas mistreated or perceived to be
mistreated it's something they try to use politically, but I can't
see it leading to a rupture in U.S.-Russian relations," Flanagan
said. "It's an unfortunate thing but it's in a different
category."

Despite the uproar over adoptions, placing children inside
Russia remains difficult. There are more than 740,000 children
without parental custody in Russia, according to UNICEF, the United
Nations Children's Fund.

Previous adoption failures have increased Russian officials'
wariness of adoptions to the U.S.

In 2006, Peggy Sue Hilt of Manassas, Virginia, was sentenced to
25 years in prison after being convicted of fatally beating a
2-year-old girl adopted from Siberia months earlier.

In 2008, Kimberly Emelyantsev of Tooele, Utah, was sentenced to
15 years after pleading guilty to killing a Russian infant in her
care.

And in March of this year, prosecutors in Pennsylvania met with
a Russian diplomats to discuss how to handle the case of a couple
accused of killing their 7-year-old adopted Russian son at their
home near the town of Dillsburg.

---

Hall reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press
writers Travis Loller in Nashville, Joshua Freed in Minneapolis,
and Foster Klug and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this
report.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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