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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Return to Sender: Russia

Shockwaves rippled across a couple of continents when seven-year-old Artyom was packed up and shipped off to Russia, all by himself. Seems that his American adoptive mother and grandmother deemed him to be a real risk to the safety of their family.

Outrage ensued, as though only materialistic Americans could view children as broken objects, able to be returned, or traded in for a better model. Yet, annually, one in three children adopted by Russians are sent back to their orphanages. That’s around 33% regularly returned, usually around the time that their governmental adoption stipend has been safely invested, with nary a blip in the news. Yet, let one American return one child… and everything breaks loose.

But, Russians are used to a certain roughness when it comes to childrearing. I remember swearing along with my husband in a Russian court of law that under no terms would we ever spank nor employ any kind of corporal punishment with our Russian children. Meanwhile, over 1200 kids wind up dead each and every year in Russian homes, not counting near-death experiences, abuse, or neglect. And where are the incensed and indignant masses?

Many of our friends and acquaintances have asked incredulously how an adoptive parent can send their child back to his native land? They look at our kids: attractive, bright, enthusiastic, loving, well-adjusted, despite horrific backgrounds. We credit our successes great and small to prayer, persistence, patience, the kids’ own resilience and efforts at recreating their future, love, humor, structure, great expectations, and Divine intervention.

So what type of heartless, self-centered and irresponsible adult could treat a helpless child in such a manner?

Probably one who is pushed beyond.

There are few facts being made available regarding this case. The mother and grandmother have disappeared, or gone into hiding/seclusion. Yet, immediately after the incident, the grandmother commented about the boy having a “hit list” of people to kill in the family, along with trying to light papers in his room in order to burn down the house.


Maybe this sounds far-fetched to the average observer, but to adoptive families taking in mentally-challenged or emotionally-troubled children, it’s not outside the pale of reality. Believe it or not, some of the older adoptees having severe problems were brought home as babies. It all has to do with neglect, trauma and abuse. Some children spring back, while many do not.

I personally know of adopted children who have killed the family pets, rushed the parents with dangerous, sharp objects, abused other siblings, and repeatedly tried to burn down the house. They have been detained and released by the police, put in psychiatric facilities, and committed to long-term treatment centers at outrageous costs. The family ends up going bankrupt, or divorcing, or hoping that the child runs away at the very least. In an extreme handful of cases (just 18 over almost two decades) where, say, the child smears feces all over the walls, the parent “snaps” and kills the child. Only one dead child is tragic enough, however, it’s nowhere near 1200+ per year in Russia.

All things considered, “Return to Sender” may be a compassionate and caring response under the most severe of circumstances.

Sounds too crass and commercial, you say? Unfortunately, that’s what adoption has become in many cases. American agencies, anxious to make a “sale” at any cost, frequently collude to withhold vital medical and psychological information on the referred child. Russian orphanages start the deception with doctored or deleted records. No wonder new parents feel duped when the truth comes out several months down the line.

Many have spent the equivalent of a year or two’s salary for a commodity hell-bent on their family’s destruction. Homes are trashed, cars are destroyed, other children are endangered requiring extensive therapy or hospital emergency visits, and on and on it goes. “Happily ever after” never happens. Not one agency that we’ve worked with over the years has ever discussed what to do should things go wrong, except to notify them. That’s some faulty follow-up.

Return to Sender. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened earlier, though I do know we were sternly warned in our last Russian adoption court appearance to never even think of returning the children. They made it perfectly clear to us: Russia doesn’t like damaged goods.

It might be time they learned. You break it, it’s yours.


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