Artyom and Vasya came from the same part of the globe as adoptive Americans — but the similarities end right about there. This is a personal perspective on another, happier-ending orphan story.
Seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev found himself at the center of an international incident recently, after being put on a plane by himself, with a one-way ticket back to Moscow and a note from his adoptive mother, 33-year-old Torry Hansen. “I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself,” the letter said, “I no longer wish to parent this child. As he is a Russian national, I am returning him to your guardianship.”
She also said, “He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues”
Russian authorities were outraged, and suspended adoptions of Russian children. Some of the mom-for-a-year’s neighbors in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and many others who knew nothing more than what was reported in sound bites, were quick to condemn Torry Hansen and, in at least one instance, to say she deserved to go to jail. Investigations are ongoing.
Seventeen-year-old Vasya is the grandson of my friend Sally, who sent an e-mail today reminding everyone that there are not only two sides to every adoptive story, but some stories with hard-won happy endings. I’ve been following Vasya’s saga, via Sally’s e-mails, for over four years. There were two years (or perhaps a little more) of agonizing struggles with the red tape of the Ukranian government before Vasya finally arrived in the U.S. in 2007 at the age of 14, speaking no English and having an education at 5th grade level.
As reported today by his grandmother, Vasya is now fluent in English, finishing 9th grade in a private school, playing outstanding soccer, “an outgoing kid so proud of his newly-acquired driver’s license, a nice looking young man with a great personality. He is also an American citizen.”
All this, Vasya’s family emphasizes, “did not come about quickly, easily or smoothly.” They want others to know that adoptive families, as well as adopted children from abroad, can use a lot of support.
What about the future of adoptions of Russian children, currently on hold for U.S. citizens? The Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a membership-based advocacy organization, reported today,
The Department of State has received no information to confirm a suspension of adoptions from Russia to the United States. Our Embassy in Moscow and other Department of State officials are talking with Russian officials to clarify this issue.
The Department of State is sending a high-level inter-agency team to Russia this weekend to meet with senior Russian officials, including officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Justice. The U.S. delegation will emphasize the importance of this issue to the United States, and will discuss our mutual concerns about how to better protect the welfare and rights of children and all parties involved in intercountry adoptions.
Many thousands of Russian children have found loving, safe and permanent homes in the United States through intercountry adoption. Families in the United States have adopted more than 50,000 children from Russia.
The good news is, despite governmental red tape and countless hurdles, there are far more Vasyas than Artyoms. Maybe Russia will remember that.