Memphis mother shares successful Russian adoption story

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis family said there is a way to prevent failed Russian adoptions and shared their success story.

A Tennessee mother said her adopted Russian son was terrorizing her family since he came to live in the United States.  The boy's adopted grandmother sent the boy back to Russia alone on a plane with only a note explaining why the family could not keep him.

The story has shocked both Russians and Americans, and now Russia has threatened to suspend all adoptions to the United States.

However, one East Memphis mother said the key to adopting a child from Russia was being connected to a network with Americans from Russia.

Dr. Linda Smiley said it was possible to get through the tough times and succeed in giving a child a place to call home.

Elizabeth Smiley, 17, was adopted from Russia.  She said she never had a room to herself.

She said life in an orphanage was not easy.

"You call everyone a mom," Elizabeth Smiley said, "and you don't really have a mother."

Her mother and father both died when Elizabeth was four from Tuberculosis.

However, Elizabeth said her life changed when she was 12.  That was when she met her mother, Linda Smiley, as part of a summer camp.

"I am a physician at the West Clinic and never found the right person to get married to," Dr. Linda Smiley said, "but had always wanted a child."

A love for animals brought the two together.

After a year-long adoption process, Linda Smiley said a network of Russian immigrants in Memphis made the difference.

"It takes a village to bring over a child," Dr. Smiley said.  "We probably had four or five people who were available as interpreters.  She had two Russian teachers her first two years that taught her English."

Elizabeth Smiley is now an award-winning barrel racer.  She said she was thankful her mother took a chance on her.

"I wouldn't have a really good job, a really good education, and I'd probably have to put my kids in the orphanage like they did," Elizabeth Smiley said.  "Like my mom probably did."

Instead, Elizabeth now dreams of being a veterinarian and has a place to call home.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.