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Returned Russian child spotlights international adoption problems

The case of a mother sending her adopted Russian child back could slow or even stop US-Russia adoptions. Russia was the No. 3 country for US international adoptions last year.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / April 13, 2010

Bedford County Sherriff Randall Boyce addressed the media on Friday about whether Torry Hansen, the mother who sent her adopted Russian child back to Moscow, would be appearing in his office that day. The incident has become a test for international adoption standards.

Josh Anderson/AP

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The case of Torry Hansen – the Tennessee mother who sent her 7-year-old adopted Russian child back to Moscow claiming he had severe psychological problems – is turning into a test for the international adoption vetting process.

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Generally speaking, it emphasizes the need to ensure that potential parents are scrutinized thoroughly and understand the system they are adopting from. But specifically, many experts worry about negative fallout from the case, which has led some Russian officials to call for a halt to all US adoptions until new and clearer procedures can be spelled out.

“There is a lot we don’t know about this case,” says Adam Pertman, executive of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “But I am concerned already that people are going to look at this story and say, ‘Look what happens,’ and strike Russia off their list or choose not to adopt at all."

"One story should not negate the good that happens to tens of thousands of children,” he says.

Number of children adopted from Russia has dropped

About 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the US last year and about 60,000 since 1991 according to Kremlin figures. The number has dwindled in the past decade because of growing programs there to boost foster care and local adoption.

The US State Department says that Russia – with 1,586 adoptions (down from a high of 5,862 in 2004) was the third most popular adoption country in 2009, behind China (3,001) and Ethiopia (2,227).

Ms. Hansen wrote a note to the Russian Ministry of Education in which she said, “This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behaviors. I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the boy’s abrupt return “a monstrous deed” and told ABC News that he had a “special concern” about the recent treatment of Russian children adopted by Americans.

Such words give experts pause.

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