Torry Hansen: When an Adopted Child Hates You

Parents of violent children support Torry Hansen's struggle with Russian son.

ByABC News
April 14, 2010, 11:45 AM

April 15, 2010— -- Carol Skeirik had high hopes after adopting a 5-year-old girl from a Chinese orphanage. She was the mother of six biological children and had worked with troubled and aggressive youth. The family had lived overseas and her husband spoke multiple languages.

"It was a faith story for us," said the 49-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. "There are so many waiting children out there. We knew our daughter would have issues, but we had a reputation as being good parents and having good kids."

Within days of the adoption, her daughter Sier threw a 14-hour temper tantrum that couldn't be quelled, and within months she turned violent and sexually aggressive, threatening to murder the family and attacking her siblings -- even the family pets.

"She began abusing my youngest child immediately," said Skeirik. "She broke Elijah's nose so severely it had to be corrected. He was hemorrhaging."

Good parents like the Skeiriks, who have struggled with an international adoption gone wrong, say they have empathy for Hansen, the who sent her 7-year-old adoptive son Justin back to his native Russia alone with a note in his backpack.

These parents don't approve of the way the mother handled the situation, but say they can understand her desperation when Hansen's adoptive son, born Artyem Saviliev, threatened to burn down the house.

As police consider whether to press charges against Hansen, the boy is in a Moscow hospital in good condition.

Hansen created an international incident, with Russian officials threatening this week to shut down all U.S. adoptions. The State Department said today that American adoptions have not yet been suspended, according to the Associated Press.

Just three weeks ago, after spending thousands of dollars and exhausting local psychiatrists and short-term therapy, the Skeiriks finally sent now 8-year-old Sier to a therapeutic boarding school in West Virginia.

"If you met my daughter, you would be charmed," she said. "She is sweet and bright and extremely intelligent. That's not unusual at all. Only in the family environment are they threatening. She can tell you straight up: I do not want to love them."

"The psychiatrist said, 'You know, it's up to her. It's an internal choice they make,'" said Skeirik. "She feels powerful hurting people, and if we didn't make this choice and did it differently, she'd probably become a killer."

Skeirik said she still loves her daughter and would never dissolve the adoption, but separation was the only solution.

To be sure, most adoptions are successful, but the primary reason that placements disrupt or dissolve is "inabilility to attach," according to the Attachment Trauma Network.

Sier was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) -- or failure to bond with her new family.

According to all accounts, Justin Hansen was well-behaved on board the flight from Viriginia to Moscow and didn't display any violent behavior, but Skeirik said that is typical of RAD.

Though Torry Hansen hasn't spoken publicly about the incident, the reaction to her actions has been ruthless, accusing her of abandonment and child abuse.

Skeirik said she faced similar criticism.

When the word got out that the Skeiriks were sending Sier away, "my husband said he feared when he came home, they were going to be picketing outside the house because of the backlash when you speak the truth and it's so intense."

Other parents who have struggled with violent adoptive children agree that Hansen acted irrationally, but they understand the pressure to cope.