MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
One year ago this week, a nurse in Tennessee sent shockwaves through the international adoption world. Afraid of her newly adopted son, she put the seven-year-old on a one-way flight back to Moscow. Russian adoptions had already been on a steady decline, but Russian officials threatened to suspend placements with U.S. families all together.
As Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports, adoptions have continued, though at a much slower pace.
BLAKE FARMER: Russian officials made threats, but the adoption pipeline was never completely shut off. Children like Anastasia Tomlinson still made their way to the U.S.
ANASTASIA TOMLINSON: My name is Ana. I from Russia.
FARMER: Ana's placement with a family in Tennessee was very nearly ruined by another Tennessee family, as a woman named Torry Hansen was sending her son back to Russia, saying he threatened to burn down the house and had psychological problems. Wayne Tomlinson and his wife were finalizing Ana's adoption.
WAYNE TOMLINSON: Before we caught the plane from Moscow to her city of Novosibirsk, is when we got a call from our agency saying, you're not going to be heard.
FARMER: Russian authorities suspended the license of their agency, the same organization working with the Hansen family.
TOMLINSON: Well, it was crushing. Anna had her suitcase packed and she was ready to come.
FARMER: Because of the adoption-gone-wrong, the Tomlinsons had to start over with another agency. Still, they completed the process by year's end. And along the way, Tomlinson says he was made well-aware of the risks.
TOMLINSON: We had been through the same coursework. And you are trained and you are taught about all the kinds of behaviors that are possible, and a lot of them are not pretty.
LINDA ASHFORD: Good job picking up the toy. Oh, thanks for bringing it back to me.
FARMER: At the International Adoption Clinic, housed at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, playtime is used as therapy. Psychologist Linda Ashford says anyone savvy enough to adopt internationally, should be able to find her clinic. Russian orphans, she says, come from a hostile environment.
ASHFORD: Love is not enough to fix and repair these attachment psychological issues that in some ways can scar some of these children for life.
FARMER: Still, Ashford says, there's never an excuse for turning your back on a child.
While the Hansen case seems straightforward, law enforcement has been unable to charge the woman. It's difficult to say if the boy was abandoned in a legal sense and if so, where? Until charged, Torry Hansen won't talk to investigators, much less the media, like this CNN reporter who staked out her house.
Unidentified Man: Usually do this a couple of times a day.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
Man: And then they never answer.
CHUCK JOHNSON: It just amazes me that someone can place a child, their child, on an airplane and to another country unaccompanied, and that that's not a crime.
FARMER: Chuck Johnson is president of the National Council for Adoption. His group is helping Russian authorities get child support from the mother. Johnson says it's the least she could do to help the U.S. mend relations with Russia. The two countries are working on a new inter-country adoption agreement now.
JOHNSON: Well, I think we're close to being back to normal. And of course it'll be the new normal. I don't think we'll ever see a return to the glory days.
FARMER: The glory days were in 2004, when nearly 6,000 children were adopted from Russia. Because of the Hansen incident and others, that figure dropped to roughly 1,000 adoptions last year.
For NPR News, I'm Blake Farmer in Nashville.
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