A new federal report on the “re-homing” of adopted children said the problem is hard to track, but government officials are taking action to stop the practice.
Re-homing, described as “unregulated child custody transfer” by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its Sept. 16 report, is where U.S. families seek new families for their adopted children outside the courts or adoption agencies.
Adopted children, usually teens, report being given away to strangers who abused or neglected them, and feeling disoriented by being abandoned by the family they thought they joined. Some children have become homeless.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat and ranking member of House Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources, said the GAO report sheds light on children “who live and suffer in the shadows.”
“Re-homing is a serious problem that impacts too many young people, particularly those who have already faced trauma or are coming to the United States from international adoption. These vulnerable children want and deserve a loving home, and we must do everything in our power to protect them from the dangers of re-homing,” said Rep. James Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.
Mr. Langevin has introduced a bill to address re-homing, called “Protecting Adopted Children Act.”
GAO investigators admitted that “little is known” about the re-homing problem since it is typically done through private online conversations and web sites.
In its 15-month investigation, the watchdog agency said it identified 23 instances when a parent sought a new family for a child. However, there was no way to know if a transfer took place.
At least 15 states have taken steps to address re-homing, with seven passing laws to criminalize the practice or restrict advertising about children.
The GAO said the problem appears to occur in families who are not equipped or prepared to handle children — especially those adopted internationally — with complex emotional, mental, physical problems.
Federal agencies are studying the issue and urging more pre-adoption counseling and post-adoption services., the report said.