Looking for Answers–Hansen adoption disaster


Like anyone connected to the adoption world, I’ve been sickened, shocked, saddened and thinking a LOT about the horrific news story about Torry Hansen who (with her mother, Nancy) put the son she adopted on a plane and sent him back to Russia.

No matter which version of the story you read, you’ll find a common thread.  Horror, yes.  Disbelief, yes.  But also many questions that basically all ask, “Who is to blame?”

  • Torry Hansen and Nancy Hansen?
  • the adoption agency?
  • the homestudy or post-placement social worker?
  • international adoptions in general?
  • United Airlines?
  • a lack of regulations?
  • a lack of pre-adoption education?
  • a lack of pre-placement screening during the homestudy process?
  • incomplete or inaccurate information from the Russian orphanage?

Considering that here at Heart of the Matter Seminars we provide education to adoptive families, you might think that we would emphasize the need for education, more education or better education as the answer.  Of course, we believe education to be invaluable.  Particularly, educational programming that does more than require the participant to be a warm body present for “x number” of hours.  We have long believed that families need to be held accountable for a certain level of understanding of information–this is why we require each participant to meet an 80% benchmark on each of the four quizzes in the Because They Waited program.   This is also why we do not issues certificates to couples and do our best to require parents to complete the program on their own as individuals.

Does any of this guarantee that a  family using Because They Waited would be immune from something crazy like this? Honestly, the answer is “no”.

The sad and scary truth is that there is no way to 100% for sure stop something like this from happening again.  If it were possible to create legislation and policy to prevent something tragic like this from happening, child abuse and neglect would be non-existent here in the U.S., in Russia and in every other country of the world.

When something horrible happens like this or abuse and even murder of children adopted internationally it is human nature to call a halt to everything and try to fix it.  I agree that we need to try to learn from this incident and of course we want to shore up weaknesses and flaws in the system.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it is possible for those of us in the United States to completely control for factors that lead to child abuse, neglect and abandonment any more than we can expect Russians (or any other country as a whole) to completely control for these factors.   The truth is that no one can 100% ensure that people don’t choose to do crazy things like put their 7 year old child on an airplane and send them to Russia.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of children who have been adopted from Russia into the United States are growing up in loving families–my son is one of them.  He is thriving, smart, happy and a blessing to our entire family.  It’s also important to remember that although ideally all children needing homes would find them in their country of origin, it’s simply not always possible and rather than growing up in an orphanage or foster care with no permanent family, international adoption should remain a viable option for these children.

My hope and prayer today is that the Russian government will allow adoptions to proceed while we all work together to look for the answers to “What went wrong?” and “How can we do this better?”

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