Friday, April 30, 2010

Thoughts on the Recent Russian Adoption Tragedy

I have not blogged about the recent Russian adoption tragedy because I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. I mean, as a mother, I just cannot imagine placing my child (because little Artyom was this mother's child)on an airplane all alone for a long and grueling international flight back to the country that had not helped him in the first place, never to return, left to wonder where his mother and grandmother were and if they were coming back for him! Sickening!

I have not blogged about it because I had really just begun to sort out how I felt about adoption disruptions and then this happened!!

I know that when Chris and I found Lizzie, we both agreed that no matter what we found when we got to China, no matter what might be "wrong" with Lizzie that we had not been told about, she was our daughter. It was just that simple. We had made a commitment to her and to God and to our other children and we were bringing her home.

Now, that being said, I have read enough to know that if a family brings a child home and just cannot handle the extreme (and I mean extreme) or dangerous behavior their child is exhibiting, then many times disrupting (once home) is the best choice for the child. My heart sinks, however, when I hear of a family deciding "in country" to disrupt and leave that child behind. Many times these kids are in total shock and who wouldn't be?? Can you imagine leaving everything that has been familiar, all your friends and the people you had considered family, to go to a different country with total strangers?? I think I would absolutely shut down and I believe a lot of these kids do. Sometimes these families even ask to be given another child! Excuse me??? For 9 long months, our family talked about Lizzie, prayed for Lizzie, prepared for LIZZIE. She was our daughter, no matter what!

One day, right around the time I had heard about another disruption in China, I found a very special blog and I am so glad I did. Adeye and her family adopted a beautiful little girl from China who had been left behind by another family. Adeye had been "warned" not to adopt this precious child but they stepped out in faith and listened to their hearts and brought their daughter home. It is a truly inspiring story and one that makes your heart weep for all those who were left behind for perceived "problems" when all they needed was the love and nurturing of a family. Go to Adeye's blog, No Greater Joy Mom and read about this remarkable family and their precious daughter, Haven and while you are there, read about their 2 new precious daughter's, Hailee and Haden, who are waiting for them in a Russian Orphanage. This is another amazing story - trust me!!

As we waited for Lizzie, we did talk about what we would do if she came home and was violent toward us or her siblings or our pets. We talked about and disagreed a bit about different scenarios and how we would handle them, but the one thing we both agreed on was that we were committed to this child and we would do whatever it took to make it work. Again, I know that there are many really wonderful families who never thought they would disrupt but find themselves in a situation that they felt they had no choice and I am not condemning them for their heartbreaking decision. However, the way little Artyom's mother handled their situation was just plain wrong on so very many levels.

I was reading a blog post the other day about this situation. Kris over at Tell Her This had put a link to a post that she had found on a blog called West Wind . In this post, a mom of a little one from China talks about the Russian situation and in this post she talks about how her thoughts turned to Artyom and how he must have felt on that very long flight back to Russia. As her thoughts were filled with sadness for this boy, she was reminded of a plane trip she had taken with her daughter about a year after they had brought her home. On this plane ride, their beautiful little girl began to get very nervous and wanted to go home. As her anxiety level quickly increased, her daddy, very wisely, told her not to worry, that momma and baba would be with her no matter where they went and that they were not going away from her. After that little bit of reassurance, she calmed down and went to sleep.

This post was very significant to me because it took me right back to when we brought Lizzie home. She had been sleeping fairly well in China (in the room with us), but as soon as we got home, her nights became terrible. She would scream and cry and did not want me to leave the room but still seemed terrified to close her eyes to sleep. After a few weeks of this bedtime hell, I called our social worker, Lauren, from our wonderful agency and explained to her what had been going on and that we just didn't know what to do. Lauren listened and very simply suggested that Lizzie might be scared to close her eyes and sleep because we might not be there when she woke up. It did make sense. When Lizzie went to bed at her CWI, the nanny that put her to bed would be gone and another nanny would be there when she woke up. However, Lizzie was just 2 years old and pretty much non-verbal. Would she really understand what we were talking about?? We really should have known better!! "grin"

That night as we were getting the girls ready for bed, we talked about the next day and what we would be doing and where we would be going. OK, so far so good. As I lifted Lizzie up to put her in the crib, I held her close and whispered in her ear that mommie loved her and that I would be here in the morning when she woke up I told her that I would always be here and that I would never leave her. To our complete amazement, Lizzie allowed me to put her in the crib without so much as a whimper. She went to sleep and slept through the night and has never had a problem since. I take that back, the only problem now is getting her to WAKE UP!! Hehe!! It broke my heart to think that all this time, she was honestly afraid that we would not be there when she woke up. It also jolted me back to her reality and to just what this precious little one had been through. Sometimes I need those jolts because sometimes I forget.

Lizzie is a happy, loved and loving little girl who still has not been in our house as long as she was in her orphanage. How's that for a jolt and sometimes when she is acting out or tantrumming, I try to remind myself of this and of how very far she has come in (almost) 2 short years. She has done so well that it can be so very hard to remember, but I need to for Lizzie's sake.

I know that not every adjustment problem can be fixed through simple explanations or the best mommie and daddy in the world or even with all the love in the world, however, many can be! Artyom had only been home for 6 months - 6 months! It could have been that with tons of love and counseling, he might have developed into a wonderful, loving little boy - or not - but 6 months is not long enough to make that kind of drastic decision.

So, while I think disruptions in some cases are an ultimately necessary thing, disruptions "in country" or even after 6 months of being home are (in my opinion) premature, unfair and so very tragic.

I think about how far my sweet girl has come since we have been home and the progress she made even after being with us for a week in China,

In China:


and it breaks my heart to think about how many wonderful, loving kiddos have been left behind because they were simply adjusting or coping the best way they knew how.

Is education the key? I don't know. More support after coming home? Maybe??? I don't know. I do know, however, that there are so very many kids who get adopted ALL the time, who are loved and cherished and flourish. Unfortunately, you don't hear about those adoptions very often. Sigh!!

So I will continue to love my little girl and I will continue to advocate for those who still wait and I will trust that stories like little Artyom's will be the exception in a sea of beautifully formed families through adoption.


  1. I have had a hard time with this as well. I haven't "followed" it and don't know all of the details. What I do know from my experience with 2 adoptions is that the first 6 months were the absolute hardest part. There is so much transition/assimilation for everyone. Although we didn't have any scary behaviors, it was just plain tough. I did feel pretty much that we were on our own with no follow-up communication from our agency/HS agency. The best support comes from other adoptive families that are open to discuss/help you with the issues without passing condemnation/judgement. It would be great if eveyone family had a mentoring family to help.

  2. I am so very happy that you have had a good transition. Your daugther is lovely. It is nice that you have never known the tragedy, seering pain, and the trauma of a disruption or a dissolution. You are fortunate. In my experience, families who have never had to deal with a child who is capable of burning down the house, sexually molesting siblings, and even physically assaulting the parents to the point of meaning to kill them, have NO IDEA the hell thaat some parents are living through. It is very, very easy to judge those families as not being 'committed,' and it is easy to say that they don't love their children. It happens all the time that therapy isn't enough, love isn't enough, time isn't enough, etc. Parents often go underground because they know that the world's finger is pointing at them. Quite frankly, when you are in the middle of a crisis of this magnitude, the last thing you need are people who have NO CLUE what it is like to give your all in every way only to be judged as not doing enough and 'giving up' on the child.
    And yes, this can also happen in country.

  3. Hi,

    When I heard about the Russian incident, it shocked me. I mean what kind of person would do that? When you get the PA and sign it and all that, you're saying you ACCEPT that child! It's just cruel, and that child will be emotionally scarred for a long time. I keep him in my prayers.

    Lizzie's so cute!

  4. Thank you for posting Red Brocade. I really appreciate your opinion but I just want to answer a few things. First of all, I never said that I was "judging" those parents who had tried everything they could or parents who were dealing with extreme and dangerous behaviors. I even said that I could understand that there were good families who disrupted because of these reasons and it was the best chioce they could make. I do, however, think that making the decision to disrupt "in country" or even after such a short time after being home, is just not a fair choice. It is just not long enough to be able to see if the child will be helped through counseling or lots of love, etc. I think I also said that in some cases, those things were not enough and that I understood that. I am not a judgemental person and do not like controversy but this is something that I feel strongly about. Hubby and I talked a lot about this before Lizzie and for us, it was simple. She was our daughter, no matter what. I think if we had brought Lizzie home and we experienced some of these dangerous behaviors, we would have sought help from anyone and everyone and we certainly would not have made the major, heartbreaking decision to distrupt after being home for only 6 months. If you ask hubby, he would tell you that we would never had made that decision - no matter what.

    I really do thank you for your post and hope that you understand that I do not judge families who have truly tried to make it work. I am not saying that it is the decision we would have made, but as you said, we have not lived that kind of tragedy.

    No matter what anyone's opinion is, I think we can all agree that it is very, very difficult and simply heartbreaking for everyone involved.

  5. There is a difference between judging disruption and judging the method of disruption. No one can defend her actions - the manner in which she chose to disrupt was unconscionable. Who does that? Puts a child on an international flight, unaccompanied, with only a paid driver to pick him up? I have every right to judge THAT.

  6. Great post, Annie. It really still boggles my mind as to why this "mother" would do this considering there really are many options for post institutionalized Russian children. Obviously, the whole thing is very disturbing on many levels. For some reason, I keep thinking something relatively minor in the scheme of things....the plane ride for him. It is difficult for me traveling internationally. I can't imagine what it is like for a confused child all alone. JUST CAN'T IMAGINE