Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The kind of mother that infuriates me.

The stupidity and cruelty of some people astounds me. Torry Hansen is one such person. Torry Hansen adopted a young boy from an orphanage in Russia six months ago. She named the boy Justin Hansen and brought him back to Tennessee. Just recently she changed her mind. Her mother flew with the boy to Washington and then put him on plane for Moscow by himself. Hansen paid a man $200 she found online to pick the boy up in Moscow and hand him over to the Russian government along with a note saying she didn’t want him anymore.

Her excuse for this action was that the seven-year-old child was “the violent tendencies and he had to be watched all the time.” Hansen says “I love children,” in spite of her actions to the contrary. Hansen claims the child threatened to kill them and had started a fire. So he sought legal advice by going online—talk about due diligence. And the on-line attorney told her to send the kids back and claimed the boy “had never been happier” than when she put on him the plane by himself.

This stupid woman set off an international incident that has led to the threat that all Americans may be stopped from adopting in Russia. Hansen had adopted the boy using an agency, but when she changed her mind she never bothered to tell the agency about the matter. They only found out when their office in Moscow was notified of the incident.

Hansen claimed that the boy had psychotic tendencies, no doubt diagnosed by an online therapist or by reading a website. Passengers on the flight with the boy say that while he was active, like most children his age, that he was obedient and sat down when instructed to do so. He was described as an average boy.

The Russian government says that the boy was disoriented when he arrived in Moscow saying that Hansen’s mother, his adopted grandmother, had told him he was going on a vacation and he didn’t realize what was happening to him until he arrived in Moscow.

According to the Russian government the boy had some signs of physical abuse. And the U.S. government is now investigating the matter because the boy became a U.S. citizen after his adoption and arrival in the United States. In addition there is some concern that the boy was not being educated, either at home or in a school. He was not listed as being home-schooled and was not enrolled in any school. And the boy told authorities that Hansen had repeatedly told him that she didn’t love him, unlike her feelings for her birth son Logan.

Let us assume, for one minute, that the assertions made by Hansen are correct. Let us assume the boy was troubled and violent. Why is that surprising? He was adopted from an orphanage and may well have had a troubled past.

My view is simple: an adopted child, once the adoption is finalized, should be considered and treated precisely as a naturally born child of the parent or parents in question. Torry Hansen had the moral obligation to deal with this boy precisely as if she had given birth to him—and that doesn’t mean returning a defective product to the franchise.

This boy was not a commodity and shouldn’t have been treated like one. Let us assume that the orphanage lied—tough, kids don’t come with guarantees. Children are living, breathing, thinking human beings with their own wills. And no one can guarantee that they will act any particular way. No such guarantee comes with children when they are born, nor should one be expected when they are adopted.

Assume Hansen’s birth son, Logan, acted this way—could she return him? Obviously not. When she took on the responsibility of adopting this boy she took on the responsibility of treating him precisely the same way a natural child would be treated under similar circumstances and that doesn’t allow for returning the child because she was unhappy. He wasn’t a defective television taken in for repairs. He was a kid.

The adoption agency that helped with the adoption says Hansen never informed them of problems. They say the first they knew of a problem was when their Moscow office was told the boy was in Russia. They say they work with parents who have trouble adjusting to the situation but that Hansen never contacted them. Hansen claimed she got “psychiatric” advice but doesn’t say from where, or how—perhaps it amounted to more on-line research. And she admits she never took the boy in for counseling. Russian authorities say there is no sign of emotional problems on the part of the boy.

Consider the circumstance: Torry Hansen made no real effort in this matter. She got legal advice online. She sticks the boy on a flight to Russia and hires a drive online to meet him at the other end. The driver had “references” online so she was satisfied. She says she sought psychological advice, but not for the boy. She didn’t contact local counseling agencies, child welfare, or any other service, public or private, that could have helped her deal with the situation—if one existed. She did not contact the adoption agency about problems. She simply packed the boy up and put him on a plane to Russia with a note saying she didn’t want him any longer. And the only person in Russia who knew of the boy’s impeding arrival was a driver she hired online.

Because the immature way she handled the situation she has put Russian authorities into a bind as well. She is still the legal mother of the boy and has not given up parental rights. They can’t find another home for the boy until she gets off her butt and cooperates but so far she is refusing to return phone calls to them in order to start the process.

Given the publicity there are now lots of people who want to talk to Hansen. The local sheriff says he called the family but they didn’t want to talk for a few more days and the sheriff appears happy to ignore the matter. The Department of Child Services says, “We have tried to visit the Hansen family” and “are working alongside law enforcement on trying to interview them.” That sounds as if Hansen and her relatives are ignoring these attempts. Perhaps DCS should contact her online? And now the FBI is involved as well, sending agents to investigate the facts.

If facts were misrepresented to Hansen then she might have a legal case against the adoption agency and the orphanage. But that wouldn’t give her the right to abandon the child. Consider a woman who is told that tests show her unborn child is normal, but the child isn’t. She chooses to give birth and finds a infant with birth defects. She might have a legal case against the physician who misinformed her but that wouldn’t give her the right to simply abandon the child. She would have the right to give custody to others who could and would help the boy. Simply abandoning him to the care of strangers is not acceptable.

Hansen had the same rights. She could have sought help, but she didn’t. She could have found other caregivers for the boy, but she didn’t. She could have sought out many people able and willing to intervene and help the boy, instead she turned him over to a stranger that she found online. Hansen is going to be put under a great deal of scrutiny and I can’t say I feel sorry for her.

The fact is that children are individuals and no guarantee is possible. We sometimes hear of a mother who sticks by her adult son, even after he has committed the worst of crimes. That attitude I can understand, but parents who abandon a child puzzle me. Each child is like a hand in poker, you never know what you are going to be dealt. But you don’t get to abandon a “bad hand.” You are stuck with the cards you get and make the most of it. Given the recent case of a boy thrown out of his home because he is gay, and now this one, I have to wonder what rights these alleged grown-ups think they have in the matter?

If your child is too aggressive, too loud or just too gay, tough shit. Work with it. Seek help, get counseling. But simply throwing a child out is incomprehensible. It is inhuman. And it deserves our greatest condemnations. As bad as it was when Derreck Martin’s parents chucked him out of home, he at least was a high school student. But Justin Hansen was just seven-years-old. My fear is that is mother was even more immature than he was. And Hansen’s actions to date, especially her refusal to speak to anyone about what she did, indicates that she deserves the scrutiny that she will receive. And I suspect we will find some things that Torry prefers remain hidden.

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