Russian Boy's Return Casts Pall Over Adoptions

The Russian Foreign Ministry has threatened to end American adoptions over the case of the 7-year-old boy adopted from Russia and then sent back last week. The U.S. State Department says there has not been a formal suspension of adoptions by the Russian government. Michele Norris talks with Cory Barron, the outreach and development director at Children's Hope International, an adoption agency in St Louis, about how it will proceed in these murky waters.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

There was confusing news out of Russia today over U.S. adoptions of Russian children. A foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow told reporters that adoptions were on hold. Later, the State Department and the Russian ministry that oversees adoptions said that was not the case. These developments come after a Tennessee woman sent her adopted seven-year-old son on a one-way flight back to Moscow by himself. The mother, Torry Ann Hansen, claimed the boy was violent and that she was unable to care for him.

There are about 3,000 American families who have already begun the process of adopting children from Russia. Cory Barron is the outreach and development director at Children's Hope International. That's an adoption agency in St. Louis. Mr. Barron, welcome to the program.

Mr. CORY BARRON (Outreach and Development Director, Children's Hope International): Thanks a lot for having me.

NORRIS: Very confusing news out of Russia today. How is this affecting your work? I bet your phone's been ringing.

Mr. BARRON: It definitely has. And at this point, we've heard twice now this week, false reports that Russian adoption would end. And of course that just sends our families into an emotional tailspin when they think adoptions have ended. But right off the bat this morning, our Russia team saw that there was a problem with the statement because the ministry of foreign affairs is not in control of adoptions in Russia. That's under the ministry of education. So, right off we knew something was wrong, so we had to alert the families to stand by, we have nothing official that Russia adoptions are closing.

NORRIS: You have been facilitating adoptions from Russia for some time now, have you sensed the growing antipathy toward Americans that we seem to be hearing about right now?

Mr. BARRON: Well, over the past decade, there have been some deaths of children who were adopted from Russia. And that created the same kind of debate in Russia that this current situation is. They are asking themselves, should we continue with adoptions in the U.S.?

NORRIS: You know, you do hear stories occasionally and news reports about parents who have adopted children from Russia, who, on the other side of the process say that it turns out to be pretty difficult for both parent and child. And they point to the emotional problems that stem from, in some cases, fetal alcohol syndrome or learning after the fact that child may have been abused or neglected while in an orphanage. Have you seen things like this in your clients? And when you do, how do you handle it?

Mr. BARRON: The key is education. And we have to alert the families of the possibility of this. Remember, all of these kids coming out of Russia are essentially social orphans. They've come from broken homes. They've been abandoned by parents. For instance, the child that was sent back to Russia, he mentally and physically appeared to be okay. But when he was brought to the United States, there must've been some bonding issues that created a crisis in that family.

And that family needed help. They didn't take the right course of action. It was the wrong thing to do to send that child back. But they needed help. They needed counseling. Again, we try and inform the families before adopting a child that's older, that there could be a possibility - and in many times there is the reality of abuse and possible exposure to alcohol products.

NORRIS: When you first heard about this story, did you immediately worry that this might turn into some sort of international standoff? That it might cause Russia to cut off Russian adoptions, Russian-U.S. adoptions?

Mr. BARRON: Well, I think just simply because of the quotes that had already come down from some Russian officials kind of put me into that thought process. But it is something that I think U.S. officials are going to address when they go to Russia on Tuesday and sit down with the ministry of education and see, what can we do better and what can they do better so that everybody is prepared and that these children have the best chance for a great new life in the U.S.?

NORRIS: Cory Barron, thank you very much.

Mr. BARRON: Thank you very much for having me.

NORRIS: Cory Barron is the outreach and development director at Children's Hope International in St. Louis.

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