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April 13, 2010

International Adoption Draws Scrutiny After 'Return To Sender" Russian Adoption

A popular story in the news this past week involves a Tennessee woman that sent her adopted son on a plane, by himself, back to his home country of Russia, with nothing but a note in his pocket explaining that she no longer wanted him. That's the initial story anyway. The woman is now stating that she had a flight attendant watching over the young boy during the flight and had paid a Moscow man to pick the boy up at the airport and return him to the adoption agency.

Russian officials are outraged over the incident, which occurred less than a month after Russian Embassy and Consul members met with prosecutors from York County, PA, over last year's death of an adopted Russian boy. Russia has stated their intent to freeze adoptions to the United States, citing the recent incident as the straw that broke the camels back. Russia has been skeptical about sending children to adoptive families in the Unites States -- since 1993 there have been 15 deaths of adopted Russian children due to negligence or abuse by their American families.

The Tennessee woman denies that she is the villain that the media has made her out to be and argues that she was lied to by the Russian adoption agency, stating (in the note she put in the boys pocket) that the boy had severe psychological issues which were concealed by the agency. No charges have been filed against the woman at this point. Reports following the incident have pointed to frequent problems with Russian adoptions. There are places, such as the Montana Ranch in Eureka, MT, that offer to assist parents in dealing with troubled adopted children.

Personally, I know a couple who adopted two young children from Russia, a boy and a girl. The adoption agency that they dealt with told them that the children were healthy; but they have had constant behavioral problems with the children, who experts believe have mental disabilities.

One can only hope that this incident draws attention to the issue at hand. Americans are the largest importers of children in need of adoption. The system of international adoption is certainly one which is ripe for abuse and exploitation, and the sad reality is that the children are the real victims. Adoption horror stories are innumerable, and hopefully this global attention can have positive effects resulting in increased oversight and regulation over the international child adoption industry.