Russian officials and the sheriff in Shelbyville, Tenn., have both raised questions about whether the 7-year-old boy sent back to Moscow by his adoptive mother and grandmother last week is really a United States citizen.
But they appear to be wrong. Tennessee adoption lawyers and national experts said Monday that the boy became an American the day he reached American soil last September and that, legally, he should be returned to the United States.
“This child is a U.S. citizen,” said Chuck Johnson, acting chief executive of the National Council for Adoption, which is working with the State Department to place the boy if he returns. “The parental rights are still in effect.”
A tug-of-war over the boy’s nationality has begun. As prosecutors in Tennessee consider whether the adoptive mother, Torry Ann Hansen, and her mother, Nancy Hansen, will be charged with abandonment or neglect — and as new details emerged about their interactions with social workers — the international dispute over what will happen to the boy they named Justin has intensified.
On Monday, Russian officials said the American government had no right to be involved because the boy they call Artyom Savelyev was not an American citizen.
The federal children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, said at a news conference that Moscow health officials and child welfare officials disagreed over whether the boy should remain in Moscow, be adopted in Russia or be sent back to the orphanage in Russia’s Far East.
For any of that to happen, however, Ms. Hansen would first have to relinquish her rights, according to adoption lawyers in Tennessee.
The Hansens have yet to announce their intentions. Sheriff Randall Boyce of Bedford County, who on Monday acknowledged that the boy probably had dual American and Russian citizenship, said he had been told by the Hansens’ lawyer that they would speak only if they were charged with a crime.
Whether that will happen is an open question, and Sheriff Boyce appeared reticent. He said he told the State Department, “Do you not feel that this is over the sheriff department’s head?”
Charles Crawford, the district attorney for Shelbyville, said prosecuting the family would be difficult. “Making it a child abuse case without the child being available to testify is a very tall order,” he said.
Still, adoption experts said there would seem to be a strong case for criminal or civil charges of abandonment or neglect. Family law, they said, considers adoptive parents the equals of biological parents, responsibilities included.
“You can’t leave your child in a place where it’s reasonably foreseeable that they could be injured or psychologically injured,” said Dawn Coppock, an adoption lawyer in Strawberry Plains, Tenn.
New details about the boy’s arrival in Russia suggest that the Hansens completed his travel plans at the last second. Nancy Hansen located an English-speaking guide over the Internet to pick up the boy at the airport and take him to the Education and Science Ministry. But the guide, Artur Lukyanov, told Russian television he had learned only at the last moment that he was supposed to pick up the boy, not Ms. Hansen herself.
The family apparently came to its decision about what to do with the boy without seeking the help of the United Way of Bedford County, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and a social service agency in Shelbyville. All said the Hansens had not contacted them.
And the agency that conducted home visits before and after Justin’s adoption, Adoption Assistance, in Smyrna, Tenn., released a statement Monday saying the Hansens had not told its social worker about the severity of their concerns. In January, the statement said, a social worker found that “the child appeared to be adjusting to his new home and family and his mother was enthusiastic about his accomplishments.”
Nancy Hansen has said the boy became a problem later. Adoption Assistance said, “If this mother would have contacted us when the adjustment problems began, we would have worked with her on the issues or arranged alternative placement.”
Posted via LiveJournal.app.