Adoption: Return to Sender: Kristi

Not Qualified

"I went to China and adopted a beautiful baby girl. She was 8 months old when we got her. She's 14 now," Kristi says. "Tierney came home with some very bizarre behaviors. It was expected that orphanage babies would display some different behaviors, and you have hope. I realized after a couple of years, love was not going to solve it. The behaviors got more extreme and more socially unacceptable: urinating and defecating on people, hitting, kicking, biting, pinching. She has stabbed people with pencils and scissors. Nothing I could do was going to help.

[AD]"When she was about 4, she looked me straight in the face and said, ‘I could've put a pillow over your face, and you would've never breathed again.' She had a plan to take out the entire family," Kristi says. "I know my daughter is profoundly mentally ill. She's been in treatment out of the home for the last seven years. I was not equipped for such an adoption.

"When I heard the tragic story of the mom who was, unfortunately, forced to return her child, I was sick for her, I was sick for her family, I was, of course, heartbroken for the child. I know I'm one of the only people in the entire world who can relate to the Tennessee mom."


Kristi explains why love is not enough in her blog.

Dr. Phil tells Jane and Kristi that he understands they have a different point of view, but he disagrees with how the Tennessee mom handled her crisis. "You don't just put a child on an airplane and then ship him off. I guess I'm not as upset about what she did as I am about how she did it," he says.

Dr. Albers-Prock points out that just like postpartum depression, there is a post-adoption depression. "There is a transition for families. This was six months, I believe, into the adoption process, and clearly there were a lot of red flags that must've been coming up for the family," she says. "I think, as we've heard from the parents today, you're overwhelmed, and you try to do your best, but it doesn't mean that you always make the right decisions."

Sue Gainer is the mother of an adopted child from Russia. She is also the chair of a national support group for adoptive parents: Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoptions. "I think her decision was tragic and somewhat rash," Sue says, regarding the Tennessee mother. "There are lots of resources, but often those resources are not enough. We have to be honest. Many states do not know how to handle seriously disturbed children in many ways." Read more of Sue's adoption challenges in her blog.

[AD]Kristi was told her child was 8 months old when she was adopted, but she could've been as old as 15 months and just not as developmentally advanced. There's no way to know her real age. Kristi spent a lot of years trying different options to get her daughter help before placing her in out-of-home care. "It wasn't a placement we wanted. We were originally told it would be six to 12 months of intensive psychiatric care, and she would return home, and we've never reached that milestone. We want our daughter home," she says.

Kristi explains why her daughter can't come home yet.


"Tom, are there genuine answers to this, or do you just get caught up in the system where the system is working but not for the child?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Sometimes there isn't an answer. Sometimes the child just is not capable to safely live in a family home. That doesn't mean the child doesn't deserve a family. Every child deserves a family. That's a basic human right," he says.

Dr. Phil goes over Tierney's violent behavior and why her siblings are afraid of her: She has wounded her big brother with a knife, she destroys everything in her room, she has extreme mood swings, she's assaultive to children and adults, she attacked a pregnant teacher, she stabbed a teacher with a pencil in his arm, she lies, and she makes elaborate plans to kill.

Kristi has an obligation to protect her other children, which is why she had to send her away.

"What sets her off? Are there triggers? Or does it come from the inside out?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]"Inside out. We've never been able to narrow it down, and just when we think we have, she changes the game," Kristi says.

Jane says sometimes she understand Mikhaela's triggers. "She wants something that I can't give her, like swimming at 2:00 in the morning. That would be a tantrum. But other times, she's just as happy as can be and just jumps up and bangs her head for no reason that I could see, feel, anything," she says.