Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Story of Artyom Savelyev -- What Were The Options?

At the Doors of a School
Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky
Oil on canvas. 127.5 x 72 cm.
State Russian Museum,
St. Petersburg, Russia

By now everyone has heard the story of Artyom Savelyev, the little boy who had been adopted from Russia, and then sent packing again after he "didn't work out" with his new family. His adoptive mother and grandmother put him on a plane unescorted back to Russia. The story is heartbreaking because it is very complex and definitely has more than one side to it. By all accounts, this little boy had become a threat to his adoptive family, threatening to kill them and burn down their house. He was seven years old, and who knows what sort of a life he had led up to this point. One can only speculate.

"Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man". ... Francis Xavier

Artyom is a cute little boy, with what seems to be a perpetual look of bewilderment on his face. Any child who is taken from his own culture, given a westernized name -- Justin -- and re-made into an entirely different and foreign persona would be bewildered. In fact, I think he would be terrified. According to his adoptive grandmother, "He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she said. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."

I feel very bad for the adoptive family. I think they had good intentions, but just didn't know what they were doing. But, there is no happy ending to this story, unfortunately. This little boy is probably going to need a lot of help for a long time. I hope there is some kindly Russian babushka somewhere who hears this little boy's story, and gives him just what he needs -- lots of big grand(s)motherly hugs. He's still just a little boy.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I am troubled by this story, too and thought of doing a post on it but just wasn't sure of my own feelings. Surely, as you say, there are two sides - there always are. My heart breaks for a young child who is taken to a different culture and language and then rejected, sent alone on a very long plane trip back to his orphanage, one supposes. And yet the adoptive family must have realized that they were in way over their heads with a troubled child, despite having been assured that he was "healthy." I don't think this is a black and white story, but it will have painful repercussions for all involved for a very long time. And I understand that Russia is now refusing to allow foreign adoptions, so many more children will languish in institutions until they are of age to be on their own.

Nicole said...

How sad! I could cry for this child. I realize that this situation not black and white though. Perhaps had the adoptive parents had better support and education as to the raising of a child of foreign birth. At age seven to leave all you know and be stuck into a different world where your name is not even the same! Ugh.
I can't imagine how he must have felt on that plane journey all alone. I hope and pray this boy gets counseling and a lovely, warmhearted grandma to take care of him.
I wonder why the family did not try counseling or to get help. Or did they? I admit I don't know a lot about the story. But to me children are not toys, or dogs bought at the store and returned or given away if we're not happy with the purchase. If this child had been their own flesh and blood? Then what would they have done? I know it must have been frightening to hear a child say he was going to burn down the house with the family inside but children lash out in diferent ways. How many times a day I hear "I hate you" from my 4 1/2 year old when I make him stop playing or stop annoying his sister or the baby. My response is "Well I love you" and he usually calms down. Lately he will start to say it and then stops himself. Perhaps that child needed to be to shown more love and uncondtional support.
Sorry for my long windedness. I am just trying to wrap my head around this situation.
Time to go hug and kiss my kids.

Teri said...

Some friends of my parents adopted a child thru a private US organization many years ago (about 25 yrs). They were told the child had no issues.

The orphanage lied.

The child had been abused in many ways by her family. And she was forever scarred by it.

It took them a court order to find this out.

No manner how much love was given, this girl was manipulative, a liar, violent and became sexually active at as a mid teen with many partners.

Flash forward to 2010. The girl is now a mother of 3 children and she disappears regularly for drug and sex binges.

The adoptive parents are now raising 2 of her children by unknown fathers (another child lives with his biological father). What should be their retirement years has them raising young children... one of whom is showing signs of instability...

Their life has been h*** because of her.

I can understand the TN family's dispare and hopelessness and fear. Because I've watched these friends of my parents...

Katy said...

I have to be honest and say that I'm at a loss with this one. On the one hand, the TN Mom had A LOT of oppositions she did not try before she put this boy on that plane. How do you tell a social worker that everything is "fine" in January then put your son on a plane in April? Did things really spiral out of control that fast, and if so, why didn't she pick up the phone and yell HELP?" We don't really know if this situation could have been resolved because it doesn't sound like they tried. If we knew more about this story. If there were more of history of this family looking for help and not receiving it, I might understand the mother's actions better.

On the other hand, like Teri I know families who have adopted children from Russia and almost all of these families had been lied to by the Russian orphanages in one way or the other. I can understand the people in Russia being disturbed by what this mother did, and by the reports of other adopted Russian children who have died here in the U.S., but I think they need take a look at the way their system treats these children. They need to come to terms with the reality that these children are mistreated in Russian orphanages, and that the state does not have the resources to care for them all.

In a perfect world this little boy will get the family, love and support he deserves and both the U.S. and Russian workers charged with caring for kids like him will take this a wake-up call to improve the way both systems are currently run.

(On a side note, changing a kids name is really cruel. I have a friend (born in the US) whose name was changed when she was adopted at the age of 6. She is now over 50 years old and she still talks about how the change of her name has effects the way she views herself.)

PinkPanthress said...

Well, this is what happnes if people try to do same hype s*ite like those music & movie stars. It is their own fault. :(
Adopting a foreign child is the new black after all...

DJan said...

Yes, Jo, it's not at all clear what should have been done for this child, but not knowing anything except what we have been told by the manipulative media, I have tried not to judge the situation. But it's impossible not to care...

Vanessa said...

That is such a sad story. Thank you for sharing it.

You know, I've heard of people who never recover from their bad chilhood influences. I really hope this little boy will not meet such a fate. He deserves more than that.

I've also heard similar stories of this kind of thing in animals. Not quite about an animal wanting to burn the house down, but maybe a cat so traumatized after an accident that she hides beneath a cupboard at all times and shush away from humans. I in fact am taking care of that cat. She only pokes her head out at mealtimes, and when all of us in the family has left the house, we sometimes return to find her sprawled on the couch or something. Then she sees us and takes off. Gosh, the fear in her eyes....she was only a stray when she got knocked down by a car. I hope she'll recover soon, becomes she deserves more too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo,
hope everything is fine, what would I do without you, as I haven't heard about it, which might be due to not watching TV or reading newspapers anymore.
Being adopted meself, this was for sure nearly heartbreaking...and can only pray for his life to become bright and right, deserved as we all do.
A nice Wednesday for you.

SparkleFarkel said...

Little Artyom's story shouldn't be fueling fires about the pros and cons of foreign orphanages and agencies that provide adoption services. I firmly believe it is Tory and Nancy (grandmother) Hansen who are completely and entirely at fault.

Although there is clearly a shortage of child psychiatric help in the United States, Tory Hansen (who is a nurse!) doesn’t claim to have tried accessing any such services at all. My God, this is her child! Any parent would fight to the death to obtain medical treatment for their little one, especially if he is potentially violent. I can't even imagine the pain Artyom Savelyev must be suffering.

Why didn't Hansen take her son to a hospital emergency room or community mental health center for counseling, where Artyom could have easily been pointed in a healthier, more loving direction other than onto a plane unescorted back to Russia? It is Tory Hansen's behavior that is disturbing. Reprehensible!

Truly, Artyom is better off without his "mother," of course, but he would have been still better off never having met her.

DUTA said...

Well, my american relatives(discovered through the internet) might have probably ignored a certain reality as they got slaughtered by a 17 year old lad adopted in childhood, if I remember correctly, from one of the neighboring south american countries.

It happened in 1996, in San Diego; he murdered five people: his adoptive parents, his grandparents ( from mother's side),his 10 year old sister.

kenju said...

Before my parents adopted me, they took a small boy age 4 home for Christmas holidays from an orphanage, sort of on trial. He had only been with them 3-4 days when told to do something he didn't want to do, and he replied...."I'll kill you!" It scared my mom so badly that she took him back to the orphanage. I know they are not above lying to get a kid adopted, and it is hell for the people who take him/her.

I do feel sorry for the child. He was, no doubt, the victim of his upbringing (or the lack of it) and was scared and angry. I wish they had taken him back, instead of putting him on a plane alone. That only adds to his psychological problems.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I understand that this was not the first "incident" involving n adopted Russian Child in the U.S. In fact, it was reported that there have even been several children who have died. We are too distant to know what is going on but something certainly is not right. The Russians are right in suspending all adoptions until they figure out what the problem is.

Jennifer D said...

This is a tough one. I feel so sorry for the boy. I think he may have major problems but he wasn't born with those issues. I have to hope that someone out there can help to reform him. It must be very painful to be rejected like that and more than likely he has been rejected before. Humans need to feel loved and wanted. However I do understand the woman wanting to protect herself, Duta's story above is frightening.

Jo said...

Susan, that is the sad thing, that so many children in Russian orphanages will now be stuck there, and they will be even more unruly when they become adults. It's too sad!

Nicole, I love long-winded comments. *heh* And yes, I have a feeling that little boy will be better off back in Russia, with his own name and in his own culture.

Teri, I have heard so many stories like the one you just told me. It seems to be more common than not. Remember when the Romanian orphanages were emptied out, and those poor children had stories of such awful abuse, and they were scarred for the rest of their lives.

Katy, "They need to come to terms with the reality that these children are mistreated in Russian orphanages, and that the state does not have the resources to care for them all." That is so true! The folks who run these orphanages have no one to blame but themselves. They can't blame the overseas folks who want to adopt these children.

PinkPanthress, oh, goodness yes. It seems to be a "fad" to adopt children from other cultures, and then westernize them.

DJan, there are definitely two sides to this story, and we are only hear one side, I believe.

Nes, very interesting yes. Animals can exhibit the same behavior. A little boy of seven has already lived enough to know his own identify and culture, and I think people need to be very careful before the "rescue" these little kids.

Robert, I had no idea you were adopted. My goodness. And yes, everyone deserves a good life...!

Sparkle, that's what I don't understand, why that mother didn't treat the little boy as her own child. He was her child, after all, once she adopted him. But she didn't take the time to access any resources to help him. He's better off back in Russia!

Duta, omigosh, that's horrible! And yes, this little boy was threatening to do the same things, and he probably would have gone through with it if they had kept him there. He clearly needed help.

Kenju, yes, I think probably some of these little kids need much more help than an adoptive parent is able to give them. They're beyond the normal family nurturing at this point.

Calvin, I have heard some of those stories too. I think it would be a very (!!!) difficult task to undertake, adopting an older child from a foreign country.

Jennifer, omigoodness, yes! Imagine being a little seven year old boy and feeling rejected like that? I hope he finds a family who will love him.

Carol E. said...

When an adoption doesn't work, it's called "disruption." This is not the first disruption, by any means. It's just a public story that people have heard about.

I believe there are many layers to this story that the media will not or cannot tell. probably the poor boy was traumatized before he was even adopted. Probably he had Reactive Detachment Disorder which made him a big handful to try to raise, and caused the scary behaviors. Sometimes love and grandma-hugs are just not enough.

It's a total sad, sad story from every angle. I just wish people wouldn't be so quick to judge and proclaim whose "fault" it is. I'm sure it has many, many layers that we don't see. The end result is a family who feels terrible and probably feel like very public failures, and a boy who is further traumatized. Not good from any angle.

Compassion should be our response.

Mia said...

A child isn't a salad. You don't send it back if you don't like the dressing.

Wolynski said...

It's a difficult situation. If the kid had some horrendous life, which he probably did, he could be a young sociopath.

Did they really change his first name? Well, then the family wasn't doing right either.

Don't know enough about the situation to have an opinion.

lovelyprism said...

I may be in the minority here, but I would like to know why people are adopting children from other countries in the first place? You cannot tell me there are no American children in need of homes. My sister and I were adopted when I was 10 months old and my sister is one of those horror stories, from that day to this she has done nothing but cause trouble. When I was 30 I jokingly asked my mother why she didn't just return her. She told me she tried! But my sister and I were actually related so they wouldn't take back just the one and she thought it was worth the pain my sister caused to keep me. (awww!) Adoption agencies all over the world DO take children back. Here in the United States the biological parents have 1 year to snatch that baby right back from adoptive parents too. Remember the little girl who ended up in a custody battle between her biological parents and her adoptive parents? I think she was 3 when it started and 6 when she was forced to go live with her biological parents, strangers by then! ( I could be wrong on the details but I know they did give her back to the people who gave her away )Sometimes these things just don't work out and there is a built in fail safe allowing you to change your mind. I couldn't possibly pass total judgement with what the media has released but at this point I must admit I'm not judging too harshly.

Paula Slade said...

My heart broke for that child. Adoption is a life long commitment - no different than having a child of your own. Children, who have been reared in an institutionalized setting very often have physical and neurological developmental problems that do not always surface immediately. An organization known as the Eastern European Adoption Coalition, Inc.(one of the finest and most reputable support networks of experts and parents who specialize "in issues unique to children adopted from Russian and Eastern European orphanages") says, "The past traumatic experiences of these young adopted children were often terrifying and disruptive. To best help these children, their new parents had to acquire comprehensive knowledge of child development and an understanding of childhood trauma, not usually needed by parents of more typical children." They go on to explain, "It is estimated that for every three to four months spent in institutional care, a child will lose one month of physical and neurological development." It is unfortunate that Artyom's adopted mother did not totally familiarize herself with these issues, which is surprising as she had a masters degree in nursing. There is major blame with the stateside agency for arranging an adoption without educating and directing the parent(s)to potential issues and appropriate resources.