Gladney Center officials monitoring status of U.S.-Russia adoptions

Adoptions of Russian children are still being allowed -- for now -- after a Tennessee woman sent her adoptive son alone on a plane back to Moscow with a note saying that he was mentally unstable and that she no longer wanted to parent the 7-year-old.

Russian officials, calling the boy's return a "monstrous deed," are threatening to freeze U.S.-Russia adoptions, potentially throwing thousands into limbo, as they investigate what went wrong.

That could affect at least two dozen applications being handled through the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth.

"There are a lot of unknowns right now," said Marshall Williams, Gladney's vice president of international adoptions and family services. "There are a lot more questions than answers.

"Gladney is working with the families now in the process," he said. "We are able to communicate with them and keep moving forward."

The Russian boy, Artyom Savelyev, who was named Justin Hansen in Tennessee, returned to Moscow last week carrying with him a letter by his adoptive mother that asked the Russian government to overturn the adoption. In the letter, mother Torry Hansen said the child is "mentally unstable."

"He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues," read the note, which was shown on Russian TV. "I was lied to and misled by the Russian orphanage. After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child."

'Absolute failure'

The boy's adoptive grandmother Nancy Hansen has told the media that he began behaving badly after a social worker checked on the family earlier this year. He was spitting, kicking and hitting, and he allegedly threatened to burn down the house with his family in it.

Nancy Hansen told reporters that she believes that the Russian government didn't tell her daughter about the boy's behavioral problems. "The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to her because they wanted to get rid of him," she said.

Williams said the boy's return was "an absolute failure" of the mother. "This is a second abandonment for that boy, and that's just terrible," he said. "Terrible."

The license of the agency that facilitated the adoption has been suspended. According to some news reports, the boy is to be adopted by married diplomats who have raised two orphaned children.

A delegation of State Department officials is expected to travel to Moscow soon to discuss a potential agreement to ensure the safety of Russian children adopted by U.S. families.

International adoptions

Many turn to international adoptions as a way to grow their families.

Russia has been a popular option. More than 40,000 children were sent to live with U.S. families in the past decade, peaking at 5,862 children in 2004.

Since then, the numbers have declined and last year dropped to 1,586, according to the State Department.

Gladney officials met Monday and created a task force to monitor any decision Russia officials make about U.S. adoptions.

Stopping U.S.-Russia adoptions could put countless orphans at risk of not having a family for years.

"We are hopeful that it will not happen," said Chuck Johnson, acting CEO of the National Council For Adoption. "We are working as hard as we can with our own government and the Russians to avoid a suspension of adoptions. If a suspension goes into place, you never know when it will be lifted."

ANNA M. TINSLEY, 817-390-7610