Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Girls Returned To Couple in Arizona

NEW YORK -- An Arizona couple found guilty of slapping and verbally abusing their newly adopted Russian children on a plane trip home from Moscow last May have been granted full custody of the children.

The two girls, now 5 years old, have bounced around for the last nine months in five different foster homes in the United States while charges were pending against the parents, Richard and Karen Thorne.

Monday's ruling means that the girls will have the permanent home they were promised when the Thornes removed them from their orphanage in the rural village of Voronezh, about 460 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

One girl had lived in the orphanage since she was found as a baby on a village street. The other had been there since her mother, an alcoholic, abandoned her when the girl was 18 months old. The mother later hanged herself.

Monday's ruling closes a chapter in adoption history that had far-reaching consequences, both in the United States and abroad.

The Thornes drew sympathy from other adoptive parents and some agencies, who began to speak more openly about the stresses inherent in the adoption process.

At the same time, the incident alarmed some officials in Russia, who had threatened to restrict adoptions by outsiders.

The case came under the jurisdiction of New York City's Administration for Children's Services, which took custody of the girls after the plane landed at Kennedy Airport.

Monday's ruling, by a judge in family court in Queens, New York, came after city officials assured the court that the Thornes had cooperated in their parent-training classes and with therapists.

As a condition of regaining custody, Judge Joseph Lauria ruled that the Thornes would be subject to unannounced visits by Arizona child welfare officials, and would be required to submit monthly reports and continue therapy.

"Your journey from Moscow ends today," he told the Thornes. "Your journey as parents begins."

After the hearing, the Thornes expressed relief. "We're looking forward to what we have to share with them," Karen Thorne, 43, said as she and her husband, 49, embraced.

The Thorne case -- with its vivid testimony from flight attendants and other passengers that the Thornes smacked and screamed at the girls on the flight home -- prompted the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to consider restricting or even banning out-of-country adoptions from Russia.

Russia, which offers prospective parents white children in a relatively short period of time for fees as high as $20,000 a child, has become the biggest source of out-of-country adoptions since the collapse of the Soviet Union, providing Americans with 3,800 children in the last fiscal year. This surpassed China, which provided 3,500 children.