Traditionally, “re-homing” has been synonymous with pets in need of placement because of conflict with their environment — cats or dogs who have had issues adjusting to a new family member, or animals who have been in abusive homes or pet mills and need more individual attention and care. A new Reuters investigation shows that the term is now being applied in an underground network of individual, off the map child adoptions, where parents are seeking out strangers in the hopes of them taking unwanted adopted children off their hands.
The results, of course, are just as dangerous for the children as it sounds.
In an ongoing series called “The Child Exchange,” one reporter delved into years worth of online message board communications between either adoptive parents seeking to hand over custody of children they regret bringing into their homes or third parties seeking to broker a deal between current adoptive homes and future ones in order to “re-home” a child labeled as “disruptive.”
The majority of the children, according to Reuters, are at least six years old, but range into their teens, and were adopted from overseas. According to their current families, they suffer from some sort of emotional or behavioral issues that make them a danger to other children in the home. By making connections over the internet, the families essentially sign over custody, in some cases to strangers they have never met in person prior to the transfer, avoiding the costs associated with agency fees and lawyers, as well as the involvement of authorities who might investigate either the parent giving up custody or the new parent who is taking the child.
Unsurprisingly, these “relationships” are now seen to draw in those who would have trouble adopting or fostering in the traditional child care system. Much of the first two sections of the series involves the story of a woman who has been central to a number of these “re-homing” stories, who not only lost her biological children to the foster care system due to abuse but has had allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct made against her and her partners.
Although there is a great deal of attention paid in the report to the allegations against the new parent and her motives for preying upon the underground network and “re-homing” children, what the report seems to gloss over — at least in the initial sections — is a direct criticism of an adoption and foster system that appears to treat children like commodities that can be acquired, stored and traded. The reporter comes close to examining the issue when she discusses a second re-homing story, describing the adoptive mother of the child in question as a former daycare owner who mostly supported herself on the government subsidies she received for caring for seven adopted children. Calling her a “professional parent,” the article notes that she turned to the message boards to seek a new home for one of the adopted children because she worried that she could be investigated by the state if she gave him to the foster care system and could potentially lose the other children.
It’s this idea of adopted children as commodities that author Kathryn Joyce dissects in her new book, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption.” Joyce reports on the troubling upswing in families, or even single parents, adopting numbers of children from overseas to the point where they essentially are setting up their own small orphanages in the States instead. Once here, they find themselves also “re-homing” those they have trouble with, a practice also referred to as a “disrupted adoption.”
“I also met Bishop Emmanuel Jones, a Liberian evangelist who runs a home for street children,” Joyce wrote in Mother Jones. “He has taken in three returned adoptees and says he knows of at least five others. Most are boys who have displayed sexual behavior or girls who ‘don’t want to submit,’ he said. It’s hard to say what happens to other ‘re-homed’ Liberian children because disrupted adoptions are poorly tracked, and many times the children simply drop off the map. At one point the Liberia forums were abuzz with adoptive and foster parents seeking new homes for their children. Some families called for suspending judgment of parents coping with failed adoptions, which were beginning to seem almost a routine part of the process.”
Obviously, raising children under any circumstances isn’t easy. When Nebraska allowed a child safe haven law to go into effect and didn’t define a specific age limit, authorities were amazed when 35 children were left at hospitals within two months, some as old as 17. The concern is not the fact that adoptive parents are somehow being asked to show more dedication to their children than biological parents, but that by using an underground system and turning over children to unvetted strangers, that they are not in fact doing their best to protect the child that is in their custody. If any parent decides that it is in both their own and the child’s best interest to no longer be a part of the family, then that is a decision that they should be comfortable alerting authorities to, and allowing the child to be placed in a better environment that has been thoroughly investigated for safety.
Children deserve to be protected, not just passed off to anyone willing to open their doors.
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