Adopted boy 'threatened to burn family's house down'

Russia is furious at orphan's return, alone on a plane, but his US 'grandmother' talks of a reign of terror

Torry Hansen was so eager to become a mother that she adopted an older child – a seven-year-old boy – from a foreign country, two factors that scare off many prospective parents. Her bigger fears came later. Torry's mother, Nancy Hansen, said the .child's violent episodes – which culminated in a threat to burn the family's home to the ground – terrified them into a shocking solution: the boy they renamed Justin was put on a plane, alone, and sent back to Russia.

Now, outraged Russian officials are calling for a halt to adoptions by Americans, and Tennessee authorities are investigating the family. However, Nancy Hansen said yesterday that the motives of her daughter – a 33-year-old unmarried nurse – were sincere. "The intent of my daughter was to have a family, and the intent of my whole family was to love that child," she said.

The family was told the boy, whose Russian name is Artyom Savelyev, was healthy in September when he was brought from the town of Partizansk in Russia's Far East to his new home in the heart of Tennessee horse country. The skinny boy seemed happy, but the behavioural problems began soon after, Ms Hansen said. She added: "The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to [Torry] because they wanted to get rid of him."

Ms Hansen chronicled a list of problems: hitting, screaming and spitting at his mother and threatening to kill family members. She said his eruptions were often sparked when he was denied something he wanted, such as toys or video games.

"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." Ms Hansen said she thought that, with their love, they could help him. "I was wrong," she said.

Adoption experts say many families are blinded by their desire to adopt and don't always understand what the orphans have sometimes endured – especially older children who may have been neglected or abandoned. "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," said Joseph LaBarbera, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Ms Hansen said her daughter sought advice from psychologists but never arranged for her adoptive son to meet one. They chose an English-language home-study programme, hoping to enroll him in traditional school in the autumn. In February, Ms Hansen said, the boy flew into a rage, picked up a 3lb statue and tried to attack his aunt with it. Ms Hansen said he was apparently upset after his aunt asked him to correct maths problems on his school work.

The family bought the plane ticket, and arranged to pay a man in Russia $200 to take him from the airport and drop him off at the Russian education ministry. He arrived alone, on Thursday, on a United Airlines flight from Washington. With him was a note that read, in part: "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 family, meanwhile, has rejected the Kremlin's sharp criticism and any notion that the boy was simply abandoned.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has called the boy's return "the last straw", after a string of foreign adoption failures, and officials in Moscow have called for a suspension of all US adoptions in Russia. The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the licence of the group involved in the adoption – the World Association for Children and Parents – for the duration of an investigation. Experts and adoptive parents have reacted with similar shock, though they stress that the vast majority of adopted children are raised in happy, loving homes.

Bob Tuke, a Nashville attorney and member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said abandonment charges against the family could depend on whether the boy was a US citizen. It wasn't clear if the adoption had become final, but a Tennessee health department spokeswoman said there was no birth certificate issued for the boy, a step that would indicate he had become a US citizen.

There was no response to a knock at Torry Hansen's door, and a phone listing could not be found for her. The family has now retained an attorney.

Randall Boyce, the Bedford County Sheriff, said it was not clear whether any laws had been broken.

"This is extremely unusual," he said. "I don't think anyone has seen something like this before."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?