Monday, April 12, 2010

~ by Jay

Dawn isn't talking about the family that sent their son back to Russia. Because she's smart, sensible and articulate (in short, she's Dawn), she's made more sense in a three-paragraph post about why she can't talk than most people have in long, vituperative screeds.

A friend of mine who adopted her daughter from Ethiopia says that adoption always starts with a tragedy. Sometimes it's the tragedy of lack of money or family resources that keeps a woman from parenting her child (like Dawn's daughter Madison and my Eve); sometimes it's the tragedy of parents dying, like my friend's daughter from Ethiopia, and sometimes it's the tragedy and crime of children who are stolen from their parents.

All adoptions start with tragedy, but few end with tragedy, and that's what happened here. You can find any number of sites on the Internet to read about how evil and wicked and horrible the adoptive family is, and how egomaniacal and selfish and exploitative adoptive parents are in general. I'm not going to recapitulate those arguments. I don't know the Hansens. I do know a family who chose to place their son, also adopted from Russia, after struggling to manage his rage and violence for three years. They sought help from pediatricians and psychologists and psychiatrists, but had no support from their agency and no access to professionals with skill and experience in post-adoption issues.

I won't vilify the parents I know, or the Hansens. Dawn is right - this isn't about adoption alone; it also happens in biological families. When it happens in adoptive families, though, I will lay at least some blame at the doorstep of the adoption agencies. Our own disruptions were far less tragic - Rose and Jesse went back to parents who wanted them. They had two loving families available. That was tragedy to us, but not to the babies. Even so, those disruptions happened because the agency didn't take appropriate responsibility for their behavior toward first mothers. They minimized the impact of the trauma on all members of the triad and offered no resources to any of us after the papers were signed and the checks had cleared.

So many people have such scathing words to say about the Hansens; it must be easy for them to do so, to use their anger and scorn to distance themselves from this unspeakable act. To say "I would never do that". And maybe there are mothers and fathers who walk away from children without a second thought, without guilt and fear and panic and regret. Maybe they exist, but I don't know any. I only know parents - biological and adoptive - who live every day wondering about the fate of the child they lost, and who surrendered that child because they saw no other choice. I only know parents who want to be good parents, and who are betrayed by the very institutions that are supposed to help them achieve that goal.

Torry Hansen will not get the chance to parent another child. If this were just about her, then we wouldn't need to do anything else to make sure it never happens again. Unfortunately, it's not just about her, and we do need to do something - a great many somethings - to make sure this never happens again, starting with reforming the international adoption process, providing resources to support parents both in the US and in other countries, and holding adoption agencies accountable to all the families they serve.


Dawn said...

Thank you for your kind words -- I appreciate them!! I am so frustrated by the limited conversation happening in some venues. I know it's a lot easier to react viscerally to the stories than it is to think hard about them.

MomVee said...

There is a corollary to "I would never do that," and it is "that would never happen to me." I encounter the latter often as people sort of touch wood while they react to my misfortunes, by asking questions like, "Does diabetes run in your family?" and "Were there problems with your pregnancy?" It's all about the illusion of control, and I have (I think and I hope) become more sensitive and less likely to judge as a result.

Jay said...

Dawn, you're more than welcome. You gave me a way to write about this - I'd been struggling to figure out what I wanted to say. And I learn so much from everything you write. This is small recompense.

MomVee, yes, I think those are completely analogous. It's a talisman of protection, don't you think? For the record, I have never found you to be at all judgmental.

Ariane said...

I've been trying to work out some words for my reaction to this story, and you found them for me. Thanks.

I have no personal experience in this, but the research I did for an essay suggested to me that this eventuality is almost inevitable under current circumstances. And as you say, there is SO MUCH that needs to be done to reduce the number of those original tragedies, and also to make sure that that first tragedy, when it does happen, is the only one.

There should be outrage, but there is very little point in directing it at any one person.

Mary (MPJ) said...

I read a comment on the Motherlode post about this case where the commenter took the mother to task because we have so many resources in this country! She could have had "an army" of therapists and psychiatrists and doctors to help!

And as the mother of a special needs child who has struggled to find appropriate help for my son, I thought, "Yeah, right -- if she were a billionaire -- maybe."

The situation is complicated and points to larger problems -- but those complexities are being completely drowned out by the obvious wrongs of the mother in sending an unaccompanied 7-year-old on an international flight into the care of a stranger she'd paid to pick him up.

el said...

Just read a great post and wanted to recomment it and the blog in general to you. This is a feminist blog by a woman, who worked in the adoptions' field.