Adoptive Parents: We Can Relate to Torry Hansen

tp-russia-adoptionsIf there’s a silver-lining to Torry Hansen’s deplorable abandonment of her adopted son Justin when his grandmother put him on an airplane and sent him back to Russia, then maybe it will be this:  More awareness about what it takes to be a parent of a child adopted internationally.

In today’s New York Times, adoptive families are reminding potential adoptive parents and the rest of us:  In some adoptions, love doesn’t conquer all.

“You can’t ever think you are getting a clean slate,” said Victoria Barrett, who lives in Tiverton, R.I., and adopted two children from orphanages in Siberia, a boy and a girl, now 8 and 7. “You can’t think that all you have to do is love the child and everything is going to be fine. It’s not like that. It takes specialized parenting.”

Did Torry Hansen realize that when she adopted Justin from a Partizansk orphanage? Or believe that her love and desire for a child would be enough? Hansen has yet to share those details with the press, but in an article about her, Adam Pertman, executive director of Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said, “You need help if you’re having problems. There is this weird lingering myth that love will conquer all. Guess what, it doesn’t in biological families and it doesn’t in adopted families.”

Specialized pediatrician Dr. Jane Aronson has made a career out of helping potential adoptive families sort through the medical information in their referrals and taking care of adopted children once they come home. And she does her best to help parents understand — sometimes unsuccessfully — what kinds of needs their child might have.

She draws a firm line at advising parents whether or not to move forward; she tries instead to give whatever medical insight she can, and then help parents trust their own intuition about how much risk they can handle, or the kinds of potential challenges they’re prepared to take on. She frequently asks parents to repeat back to her what they’ve heard her say in her medical analysis; what she hears back often reveals a level of denial she feels obliged to penetrate, even knowing what it may mean for the child. “That piece haunts me,” she said.

But better preparation might have deterred Torry Hansen, who — it seems clear — was not able to properly care for a child with emotional and behavioral problems, from adopting in the first place. Rather than putting a halt to international adoption, authorities need to ensure there are better safeguards in place so that all potential adoptive parents are provided with insight, honesty, and education so that they can make a clear-headed decision about building their family.

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