Activists urge Congress to halt child ‘re-homings’

NATIONAL: Activists urge Congress to halt child ‘re-homings’
Date: Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Source: Chicago Tribune
Author: Marianne LeVine

Child care advocates asked Congress on Tuesday to do more to protect adopted children — often foreign-born and suffering from behavioral problems — who are being given away to people solicited over the Internet by adoptive parents who no longer want them.

The Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families hearing was the first time the chamber has examined the issue of “private re-homing.” Several lawmakers said they were disturbed by the practice.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., the subcommittee chairwoman, said children are being “shuffled around to homes and families that their adoptive parents have never met and who, in some cases, have a history of child abuse and neglect. We cannot allow these children to slip through our system unnoticed.”

Experts urged Congress to restrict online ads for the practice and to require that all child custody transfers to nonrelatives be supervised by a court. They called for additional support for struggling adoptive parents and tighter government scrutiny.

“I don’t know what the mindset was of these folks making these poor decisions,” said JooYeun Chang, associate commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau. “Obviously when they adopted a child they did not take that responsibility of becoming a parent in a way that was intended.”

Chang said her agency is providing technical assistance and guidance to states but is still evaluating how to respond to private re-homings.

The issue received widespread attention last September after a series of articles by Reuters journalist Megan Twohey, who found parents were using online bulletin boards on Yahoo and Facebook to advertise their unwanted adopted children. She estimated that 70 percent of the children offered on the online forums she reviewed were born in other countries and then adopted by families in the U.S.

In many cases, parents said they turned to private re-homing because they were unable to handle their adopted child’s emotional or behavioral problems, and received little support from adoption agencies.

The process is cheaper and less time-consuming than formal adoptions, which require background checks, home inspections and training.

But since there are no uniform regulations for private re-homing, children risk being transferred to abusive families, Twohey said. In her reporting, she found one man — now in prison for child pornography — who took home a 10-year boy whose adopted parent used an online site to transfer custody.

“What we didn’t know was how often this was happening and what had become of the children who were given away,” Twohey said at the hearing. “No authority systematically tracks what happens to children after they are adopted domestically or internationally.”

The scope of the problem is unclear. But currently, state laws largely determine how adoption transfers take place.

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