We Can Do Better: Adopting with Open Eyes, Informed Mind, & Big Heart

A friend and colleague parent coach/therapist alerted me today about the news story telling about the little boy, just 7 years old, who was “returned” to Russia by his American adoptive mom. (If you haven’t read this story, you can do so at¬†http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_RUSSIA_ADOPTED_BOY?SITE=NEYOR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT .) A brief recap might be “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.”

I can’t even begin to process this event just yet; I am so far having mostly an emotional reaction to the hurts inflicted on this innocent, his abandonment being simply the most recent of what I’m sure are many.

His adoptive mom claims that she was not told about the boy’s severe psychological problems. True? Who knows? I’m thinking that the fact that she decided to stop trying to parent the little boy indicates that, had she been told of the difficulties that may lie ahead, she would not have taken in the child in the first place. SO I’m going to assume that she is telling the truth about this.

My biggest frustration is about the adoption process itself: Regardless of what was said–or not said–by the officials at the orphanage, how is it that, apparently, adoptive parents are not being required to learn about how deeply traumatized most adopt-able children are? About how intensely challenging it might be to parent these kiddos? About what a huge commitment one makes when deciding to adopt a child from any context, perhaps particularly from an orphanage? I have been aware that this is a serious problem, but this case highlights the incredibly damaging consequences of our negligence.

This is a very sad case, and I’m hoping that from it will at least arise some new awareness about what happens, and does not happen, when a person decides to adopt a child with a trauma/neglect history. (And really, any child who is available for adoption falls into this category.) And I’m hoping that all those who are considering, or who are already committed to, adopting a child from Haiti will be entering into the process with open eyes, informed mind, and huge heart and compassion, and will be able and willing to manage the challenges, and to get help when needed. (One resource for these folks is Alliance of H.O.P.E. [Haitian Orphan Parent Educators], a group which I co-founded with several other parent educators to offer free support and resources to those parenting and supporting Haitian orphans. Our site is www.haitian-orphan-parent-educators.org . ) It is a labor of love, and it is growing every day (well, every week anyway!)

Here’s to little¬†Artyom Savelyev, who has done nothing except to be born into circumstances beyond his control…May he rise above the insanity of his early years and grow beyond his circumstances, and show us all how we can better serve the children of our world who need us.


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