Raising a son from birth

Read a roundtable with its founders here, or see new stories in the Human Interest section. I no longer wish to parent this child. They come from a letter written by 33-year-old Tennessee nurse Torry Hansen, who sent it on a plane back to Russia with the 7-year-old son she’d adopted last September. But there were moments last summer, after we brought home our newly adopted 3-raising a son from birth-old from China, when they could have been mine.

Obviously, I eventually did, or the storm that now surrounds Hansen would have enveloped me instead. But without taking away anything from what her adopted son was suffering, I understand, deep in my bones, what Hansen must have been going through when she bypassed all other emergency options and put that child on a plane. Like me, Hansen must have thought she was prepared. She was screened, questioned, and evaluated. She would have sat through the mandatory “adoption education” session on institutionalized children featuring descriptions of sexual and other abuses, violent anger, and unpredictable procedural delays. Hansen’s case isn’t the first to end this way. She’s not even the first parent to return her child to Russia—a couple from Georgia took a 9-year-old girl back in 2000, saying they could not get her the help she needed.

Hansen adopted a 7-year-old boy from a country with a long history of troubled adoptions of institutionalized children. I adopted a 3-year-old raised in the best possible circumstances for an abandoned girl-baby in China—a foster home, with a loving couple whom she called Mommy and Baba, who’d parented her since she was 2 months old. With their help and support, she was transitioned to us with as much loving care as the Chinese government would allow. With some crazed exceptions, few adoptive parents go through this process intending to do harm. The problem is that harm has already been done. Even the best adoptive parent is just the clean-up crew.