Return of Russian child perplexes Tupelo agency, families

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A Tennessee woman who sent her adopted son back to Russia because of what she described as his severe emotional problems has some Tupeloans wondering if she couldn’t have handled things differently.
People who work in international adoptions are asking why Torry Ann Hansen, a nurse from Shelbyville, Tenn., didn’t avail herself of the help that was available to her through the adoption community, such as counselors and social workers.
“It’s hard to believe that she wouldn’t have been aware of these resources,” said Tom Velie who heads Tupelo-based New Beginnings International Children’s and Family Services.
Hansen’s 7-year-old adopted son, Justin, landed in Moscow on Thursday after his adoptive grandmother, Nancy Hansen, put him on a plane departing from Washington. He bore a note from his adoptive mother saying she feared for her safety because of his threatening behavior and could no longer be responsible for him.
In a statement issued Monday, the agency that worked with the Hansens prior to Justin’s adoption in September said the family hadn’t told its social worker about the severity of their concerns.
Neither had they sought help from organizations like the United Way or the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
Velie said that just didn’t make sense.
He pointed out that the home study programs conducted by all licensed adoption providers, including the one the Hansens used, educate adopting families about how to get help in case their child has trouble adjusting.
“That’s part of our basic code of ethical standards,” said Velie.
According to Chuck Johnson, acting CEO of the National Council for Adoption, Russia has good standing in the inter-country adoption community. More than 50,000 Russian children have been adopted by U.S. citizens since 1991. Johnson said the country has signed but not fully implemented the conditions of the Hague Adoption Convention, a set of best practices followed by more than 70 countries, including the U.S.
Those practices include a thorough evaluation of the adopting family’s home environment by an accredited agency, as well as full disclosure from the country of adoption about a child’s history and needs.
Tupelo residents Thomas Whitenton and his wife, Michelle have adopted two children from Russia. They had a positive experience but they also knew that many children in the adoption system have experienced some kind of trauma, and they were patient in allowing their children to adjust to their new environment.
The only children Russia puts up for inter-country adoption, according to Johnson of the NCFA, are those with special needs, and those needs might be of a physical or psychological nature.
As Thomas Whitenton put it, “These are children that come from tough situations. There’s no secret about that.”
As a result of Justin’s one-way deportment to his motherland the Russian government has threatened to suspend adoption of its country’s children by Americans.
Last year Russia criticized the U.S. after a Virginia man was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of his adopted, Russian son whom he left in a hot, parked car for nine hours.
A Tupelo family who asked not to be identified in this article has followed Justin’s story closely, hoping that Russia will choose not to close the door on adoptions.
They have one adopted child from Kazakhstan, and are in the process of adopting another from Russia.
When they brought their first child home, they took her to an international physician in Memphis, making sure she was up to date on immunizations and that she was as healthy as they had been told.
In the early stages of their second adoption, they’re confident they’re being dealt with honestly, and they hope many more Russian children will have the chance to find loving families in America.
“So many children are given better opportunities and better lives,” said the mother of the family. “It would be a shame to stop that.”

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or

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