American parents send adopted 7-year-old back to Russia – by himself

Date: 2010-04-08

A seven-year-old boy arrived at a Moscow airport from the United States on Saturday morning. “I refuse him”, read the note the boy carried with him.

The Russian representative on children’s rights, Pavel Astakhov, says the child was adopted in Russia around six months ago by an American couple.

The fact that a seven-year-old arrived by plane without accompanying adults was revealed only at immigration control. The boy was taken to a police station in Moscow and the hearing representative went there, too, to clarify the situation.

Later in the day Astakhov said the boy’s name is Artyom Justin Hansen. The boy was born in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, and arrived in Moscow from Washington.

“The procedure for returning an adopted child has been violated. We face such situations when adopters return adopted children quite often within the first year, including international adoptive parents, though it happens less frequently. But, nonetheless, there is a procedure. They were to send a corresponding application to the guardianship bodies, social protection authorities in the US. In America there is a child service which is in charge of children protection. And they were to send a corresponding application,” Pavel Astakhov said.

“But the mother decided to make her life easier, as she writes in her application, and says that she abandoned the child because she does not want him to destroy her life, her family, and lose her friends. She thinks that she has been misled as to what the boy was going to be like. But we have the boy’s history and we can see that he is a normal boy and has no mental or physical abnormalities, he is psychologically stable. Our task now is to find out what was the reason for the abandonment. The boy was taken to a hospital in order to find out whether he has any diseases, signs of beating or trauma. So if he’s fine, he will be in quarantine for two weeks and after that he will be sent to a child care center.”

However, no information was withheld from Artyom’s foster mother, Pavel Astakhov claims.

A year before adopting the boy, the US adoptive mother was clarifying whether he had any illnesses. But all the examinations show the boy to be completely healthy – physically and mentally. So nobody withheld anything from her. It’s a lie,” Astakhov said.

The ombudsman has spoken with the boy and asked him how he liked it in the foster family.

“I asked Artyom how he was treated and what the family was like. He said there was an older brother, Logan, who is 10. Artyom didn’t go to school, although he should have. The older brother didn’t go to school either. There was a grandmother who was at home with the boys. She used to shout at Artyom a lot. And when I asked how the mother treated him, he burst into tears and said she used to pull his hair,” Astakhov said.

Further, Astakhov said he would ask the authorities to suspend the practice of Russian children’s adoption by Americans. “We must tighten the control over candidates for international adoption. I will raise this question now as it is possible that we must even suspend American adoptions to clarify how many similar cases we have there,” the Russian official said.

Russia intends to reach bilateral agreements with other countries in order to protect Russian children adopted by foreign citizens, head of Russia’s State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev told Itar-Tass news agency.

“Such cases are villainous, absolutely not acceptable and this must not happen under any circumstances,” Kosachev said. “A different, new in-principle legislative mechanism of protecting children that become a subject for international adoption is needed.”

This mechanism is obviously clear – it is “bilateral agreements on adoption,” Kosachev added.

Now Artyom is being treated at one of the hospitals in the Russian capital. According to a preliminary examination by doctors, his condition is satisfactory.

American psychotherapist Joe Soll says rejecting a child from an adoptive family is bound to have a serious negative impact on the boy's state of mind.

“When you remove a child from a family, no matter what the circumstances are, it’s a trauma. We don’t look at children who have been adopted as traumatized, but they are,” Soll said. “I don’t think people are educated at all to understand what adoption is really about.”

All the operations of the US agency involved in the adoption of Artem Saveliev have been halted by Russia’s Ministry of Education and Science.

"Until we find out all the circumstances of the case, we are suspending the permit to operate an adoption in Russia for the non-profit organization World Association For Children And Parents, which assisted in the adoption of children and monitor the conditions of their life and upbringing in the US," Alina Levitskaya, ministry representative, said.

This latest case is just one of many adoption scandals with Russian orphans and American adoptive parents being involved. In another case, a two-year-old boy died after his American adoptive father left him inside a car with temperature outside about 30 degrees Celsius.

Andrey Fedorov from Alaska international adoption agency says families who adopt a child should be closely monitored by social services, at least in the first couple of years.

“Every family should be screened and they should get much more attention from social workers, especially in the first couple of years when the child just came to the family and he is trying to adjust himself in this new environment. And, of course, this is a new environment for the [adopted] parents, too, so this situation should be under the control of the social services,” he said.

Russian attorney Margarita Zakiyan says international adoptions are becoming increasingly popular in Russia and more difficult to monitor.

“Unfortunately, today there are more children at local orphanages and Russian citizens are very reluctant to adopt them. That is why we get more and more cases of international adoptions,” Zakiyan explained. “Sometimes, due to the international concepts involved here, it is very difficult to safeguard, protect, monitor and screen those particular cases, because the children are not in Russia and they are under the regulation of international law.”


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