Does This Gift Come with a Return Receipt?

In April of 2010, Tory Hansen put her seven-year-old adopted son on an airplane and returned him to Russia. Her reason was that her son frequently exhibit violent behaviors and she had run out of ideas for how to safely manage him. While the world reeled with scorn at Tory, my reaction was, “Good for her. Finally, someone is letting the world know what we moms are going through.” We, who are attempting to parent children with early-childhood trauma, attachment issues, fetal alcohol, and other effects due to the disruption of their original families, totally understood why Tory did what she felt she had to do. Few of us would do the same, but we understood.

In the first year or so of our new family, I asked a friend if she ever wanted to send her biological child back to where he came from. She quickly affirmed my suspicion. Children are just plain hard at times. We all long for days without the headaches no matter what level of difficulties we wrestle with.

Sometimes terminating a parent/child relationship is necessary. The same day the Tory Hanson story hit the news, another similar story appeared in our local papers. My close friend’s adopted son had taken a gun to his middle school.

This child had also exhibited dangerous and destructive behaviors. The parents had emptied their bank accounts for countless therapies, rehabilitation homes, and every measure possible to help their son. Yet the country insisted this child return to live at home. My friend and her husband refused. They longed to continue a relationship with their child, just not at home where he was a danger to his siblings and family pets. Eventually, as efforts with the country deteriorated, my friend had to terminate the adoption. I sat in two court sessions with her as she grieved—and rejoiced—her way through the termination process.

Exactly a year after she had written a letter warning the country of her son’s dangerous tendencies and her concern that he was now living in a home with young children, her son broke into his new family’s gun cabinet and took a loaded gun to his school. Gratefully, he had loaded the wrong bullets and no one was injured. How we’d wished the county had understood the true needs of this child and those of the foster/adoptive family. Had the help needed been available, maybe this boy would never have taken a gun to school and, consequently, spent several years in juvenile detention and prison.

In my own experience as a mom, I too dug in my mind’s drawer many times, looking for that return receipt. We had numerous icky and scary situations, including a few times when police had to be called. It wasn’t until our children matured, lived a few years on their own, became parents themselves—and after we had remained steadfast with our boundaries and consistent with our love—our kids eventually settle into a strong relationship with us.

So if you’re in a place where you wished you could return your child, first I want you to know you’re not alone. You are understood. And it’s okay to feel this way. After all, God Himself regretted creating mankind—more than once (Genesis 6:6).

Second, remain consistent with your boundaries. Children need these and need them communicated even if they continuously violate them and have to suffer consequences over and over. It doesn’t matter if the consequences achieve their desired effect. The fact that boundaries are communicated and consequences carried out, still provides a desperately needed sense of stability (for both child and parent).

Third, remember there is no child beyond God’s reach.


Some things we just have to learn to leave to God. It’s at times like these we can rest in the truth that only God is the Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).


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