Image: Artyom Savelyev
In this image, taken from Rossia 1 TV, Artyom Savelyev gets into a minivan outside a police station in Moscow on Thursday after an American woman put her adopted son on a one-way flight back to his homeland.
updated 4/9/2010 6:14:58 PM ET 2010-04-09T22:14:58

Russia threatened to suspend all child adoptions by U.S. families Friday after a 7-year-old boy adopted by a woman from Tennessee was sent alone on a one-way flight back to Moscow with a note saying he was violent and had severe psychological problems.

The boy, Artyom Savelyev, was put on a plane by his adopted grandmother, Nancy Hansen of Shelbyville.

"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 told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the actions by the grandmother "the last straw" in a string of U.S. adoptions gone wrong, including three in which Russian children had died in the U.S.

'A monstrous deed'
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, President Dmitry Medvedev  said the boy "fell into a very bad family."

"It is a monstrous deed on the part of his adoptive parents, to take the kid and virtually throw him out with the airplane in the opposite direction and to say, 'I'm sorry I could not cope with it, take everything back' is not only immoral but also against the law," Medvedev said.

The cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported prominently. Russian main TV networks ran extensive reports on the latest incident in their main evening news shows.

The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the license of the group involved in the adoption — the World Association for Children and Parents, a Renton, Washington-based agency — for the duration of an investigation. In Tennessee, authorities were investigating the adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, 33.

Any possible freeze could affect hundreds of American families. Last year, nearly 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the United States, and more than 60,000 Russian orphans have been successfully adopted there, according to the National Council For Adoption, a U.S. adoption advocacy nonprofit group.

"We're obviously very troubled by it," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington when asked about the boy's case. He told reporters the U.S. and Russia share a responsibility for the child's safety and Washington will work closely with Moscow to make sure adoptions are legal and appropriately monitored.

Asked if he thought a suspension by Russia was warranted, Crowley said, "If Russia does suspend cooperation on the adoption, that is its right. These are Russian citizens."

"Child abandonment of any kind is reprehensible," said Chuck Johnson, acting CEO of the National Council For Adoption. "The actions of this mother are especially troubling because an already vulnerable, innocent child has been further victimized."

Letter details psychological problems
The boy arrived unaccompanied in Moscow on a United Airlines flight on Thursday from Washington. Social workers sent him to a Moscow hospital for a health checkup and criticized his adoptive mother for abandoning him.

The Kremlin children's rights office said the boy was carrying a letter from his adoptive mother saying she was returning him due to severe psychological problems.

Josh Anderson  /  AP
The home of Torry Hansen, the adoptive mother of Artyom Savelyev, whom she called Justin, in Shelbyville, Tenn. Hansen and her mother said the boy had serious emotional problems, was violent and that this Russian caretakers lied about his problems.
"This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues," the letter said. "I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues. ...

"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."

The boy was adopted in September from the town of Partizansk in Russia's Far East.

Nancy Hansen, the grandmother, told The Associated Press that she and the boy flew to Washington and she put the child on the plane with the note from her daughter. She vehemently rejected assertions of child abandonment by Russian authorities, saying he was watched over by a United Airlines stewardess and the family paid a man $200 to pick the boy up at the Moscow airport and take him to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.

Nancy Hansen said a social worker checked on the boy in January and reported to Russian authorities that there were no problems. But after that, the grandmother said incidents of hitting, kicking, spitting began to escalate, along with threats.

Grandmother: Mother lied to
She said she and her daughter went to Russia together to adopt the boy, and she believes information about his behavioral problems was withheld from her daughter.

"The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to her because they wanted to get rid of him," Nancy Hansen said.

She said the boy was very skinny when they picked him up, and he told them he had been beaten with a broom handle at the orphanage.

Joseph LaBarbera, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said adoptive parents are many times not aware of the psychological state of children put up for adoption.

"Parents enter into it (foreign adoption) with positive motivations but, in a sense, they are a little bit blindsided by their desire to adopt," said LaBarbera, who specializes in the psychological evaluation of children and has worked with a number of children adopted from Russia and other foreign countries. "They're not prepared to appreciate, psychologically, the kinds of conditions these kids have been exposed to and the effect it has had on them."

Russian state television showed the child in a yellow jacket holding the hands of two chaperones as he left a police precinct and entered a van bound for a Moscow medical clinic.

Boy: Mother was 'bad'

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, said he was "deeply shocked by the news" and "very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted."

Anna Orlova, a spokeswoman for Kremlin's Children Rights Commissioner, told The Associated Press that she visited the boy and he told her that his mother was "bad," "did not love him," and used to pull his hair.

Russian officials said he turned up at the door of the Russian Education and Science Ministry on Thursday afternoon accompanied by a Russian man who handed over the boy and his documents, then left, officials said. The child holds a Russian passport.

Rob Johnson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, said the agency is looking into Friday's allegations, although it does not handle international adoptions.

Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce also said Torry Hansen was under investigation, but he hasn't interviewed the Hansens because their lawyer has advised them not to talk.

Lavrov said his ministry would recommend that the U.S. and Russia hammer out an agreement before any new adoptions are allowed.

"We have taken the decision ... to suggest a freeze on any adoptions to American families until Russia and the U.S.A. sign an international agreement" on the conditions for adoptions, Lavrov said.

He said the U.S. had refused to negotiate such an accord in the past but "the recent event was the last straw."

Pavel Astakhov, the children rights commissioner, said in a televised interview that a treaty is vital to protect Russian citizens in other countries.

"How can we prosecute a person who abused the rights of a Russian child abroad? If there was an adoption treaty in place, we would have legal means to protect Russian children abroad," he said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Russian outrage

  1. Closed captioning of: Russian outrage

    announcer: protection with just one pill a day. .

    >>> we are back now with a story that causes a good deal of outrage. it starts with a woman here in america who decided to send her 7-year-old adoptive son back where he came from in russia . he was all by himself with a note basically saying she's had enough. now what this one woman has done could end up affecting other americans who want to adopt russian children. nbc 's ron allen has the story .

    >> reporter: artyom savelyev just 7 appeared bewildered. he had been put on a flight alone by a woman from tennessee who adopted him, with a note saying he was violent, mentally unstable and she did not want him anymore. his return touched off anger and outrage in russia . "his eyes fill with tear wes his adoptive mother is called by name. he says she often pulled him by hair. his mother was torry hansen . she allegedly paid a russian tour operator $200 to meet the boy at the airport. hansen adopted artyom last september. his home after being taken away from an unfit alcoholic mother . the orphanage director remembers how happy new-mom hansen and artyom had seen. hansen says the orphanage lied to her. employees were definitely aware of the major problems the child had. hansen 's mother told the associated press the boy had become threatening, "he drew a picture of our house burning down, and he'll 2 tell anybody that he's going to burn down our house with us in it." late today, the hansen 's newly-hired attorney had this to say.

    >> we are hopeful after our investigation, the family will have a reasonable explanation of what occurred.

    >> reporter: international adoption advocates call this child abuse .

    >> you're worried about this child , what is this kid feeling, thinking and doing? it's indescribable.

    >> reporter: today russia 's foreign minister called for a halt to all adoptions in the u.s. saying it was the last straw. "the way he was treated is beyond the bounds of good and evil," he says. cases like this are rare. perhaps only a handful ever reported. there already was anger because as many as 13 children adopted from russia have died at the hands of their american parents during the past ten years. now, the u.s. state department and authorities in tennessee all want to question hansen about her adopted son, now abandoned along with the promise of a new life. ron allen , nbc news, new york .

    >>> on wall street today, the


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