According to an article in the ABA Journal, see the full article here, “among pet owners, ‘re-homing’ an unwanted dog or cat is a relatively straightforward process. The owner who seeks an alternative home often places an ad on the Internet, and a private transaction occurs that moves the pet to a new family. But with the rise of foreign adoptions of children and the inability of some parents to handle troubled youths, more and more desperate families are taking that approach with adopted youngsters and re-homing the children with strangers. Often those re-homed children report gruesome tales of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by their new guardians.”
“The process of re-homing has been largely unregulated—no federal laws prohibit the exchange of unwanted adopted kids. Most states allow private adoptions, but the processes vary widely and oversight is limited. In most cases, re-homing may be executed by a simple power-of-attorney letter or a notarized statement without government authorities or even any lawyers vetting the new parents.”
“Kids shouldn’t be in want ads like: ‘Our dog just had puppies. Want one for free?’ ” adds Haralambie, a former chair of the ABA Family Law Section’s Juvenile Law and Needs of Children Committee. That’s precisely where people like the mentally ill and pedophiles go to get children. At best, it’s abandonment, and at worst, it’s human trafficking.”
Children adopted internationally face other problems: Those from institutional homes may have attachment disorders from prior neglect or have language differences that limit their understanding of expectations.
“Myers says the remedy for re-homing is twofold. ‘First, it has to be a crime, and I’m not a big fan of criminalizing. But the analogy is baby selling, which is a crime. Plus, it’s always been a crime to abandon a child.’ Criminalizing the practice sends a very clear message to the very unfortunate parents who find themselves in a situation where they think: ‘I simply can’t do this.’ ”
State legislatures are taking note. In April, Wisconsin became the first state to make it illegal for anyone not licensed by the state to advertise a child older than age 1 for adoption or any other custody transfer, both in print and online. Parents who want to transfer custody of a child to someone other than a relative must seek permission from a judge. Violators face up to nine months in jail or as much as $10,000 in fines.
Last summer, Louisiana also banned nonlegal adoption, with offenders facing a penalty of $5,000 and up to five years in prison. Colorado, Florida and Ohio are considering similar laws.
Unfortunately, Babb says, most states aren’t making prohibiting online advertising of children or re-homing a priority. “This requires urgent attention, but children and families are at the bottom of the totem pole in policymaking.” It’s an effort, she insists, that must be led by the federal government.
For its part, the Adoption Committee of the ABA Family Law Section has informally discussed re-homing, but it has no plans to take active steps such as drafting a model statute, says family lawyer Carl Gilmore, the committee’s chair.
“I’m always hard-pressed to say under all circumstances that a practice should always be illegal,” says Gilmore of Woodstock, Illinois. “I can see circumstances where replacement of children might be advantageous, such as when there’s been no attachment between the child and the family. But there needs to be oversight.” Re-homing must be viewed “with a great deal of caution” and include, at the very least, investigations and criminal background checks, he says.
For Babb, re-homing raises broader issues. “We should question why so many parents are relying on international adoptions given that many of America’s children are available for adoption,” she says. “Parents should reconsider working with local departments of social services. There would be much more willingness and, in some cases, legal authority to help adoptive families facing challenges.”
I personally have often wondered why more American children are not adopted, as there are many children here in the United States who are deserving of a loving family. I would love to hear how others feel about this as well as the issues of re-homing the children who are adopted, whether internationally or not.