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article imageCongress to address re-homing issue on Tuesday

By Karen Graham     Jul 7, 2014 in Politics
On Tuesday, a U.S. Senate subcommittee will begin hearings on how the federal government can stop parents from using the Internet to transfer custody of their adopted children to strangers. This is in response to a Reuters investigation on "rehoming."
The American public had no idea the practice of "re-homing" was going on using adopted children. Often, re-homing refers to finding homes for unwanted pets, but the Reuters News Agency investigation published in 2013 brought the re-homing of adopted children, often from overseas, to light, and the report showed just how widespread the practice really is.
The investigation, called “The Child Exchange,” prompted the introduction of a Congressional bill on October 30, 2013 that would ensure the safety and well-being of adopted children. But as the 113th Congress was about to close in December of 2013, that bill, along with many others passed over by ineffectual lawmakers was left to gather dust.
Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced the “Protecting Adopted Children Act,” bill aimed at curbing the practice of re-homing children through the use of social media outlets. His bill would would have made use of pre- and post-adoptive support services, not addressing the Internet at all. At that time, Langevin sent a letter to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, asking them to investigate the practice of re-homing, and "convene state and federal officials and other stakeholders to determine what authorities exist to address the problem."
According to the Reuters report, investigators found that parents, often desperate, or even hating the children they had adopted, used Yahoo and Facebook bulletin boards to advertise, soliciting families to take the children they no longer wanted. It was found that almost all the transactions were finalized with nothing more than a notarized statement of the transfer of guardianship.
Reuters studied over 5,029 posts over a period of five years. On one Yahoo bulletin board, they found that a child was advertised for re-homing at least once a week. Most of the children were between the ages of 6-14-years of age, with the youngest being 10 months old, and were adopted from overseas from such countries as Russia, China, Ethiopia and Ukraine.
Yahoo acted very swiftly on learning about the Reuters report, and promptly shut down a bulletin board called "Adopting-from-Disruption," which had been running for more than six years. Five additional groups were also shut down after Reuters brought them to Yahoo's attention. The company said activity in the group "violated the company's terms-of-service agreement."
Facebook has a similar forum, or group, called "Way Stations of Love," that is up and still running, although under a slightly different name, and unsearchable on the social network. At the time the Reuters report came out, a Facebook spokesman said the page shows, "that the Internet is a reflection of society, and people are using it for all kinds of communications and to tackle all sorts of problems, including very complicated issues such as this one."
There are no state or federal laws that specifically restrict or ban re-homing of a child. And that is what has to be fixed. There are at least four states that have passed laws restricting use of the Internet in advertising of children, transferring custody, or both. In passing those bills, lawmakers pointed out the absence of federal government safeguards in protecting these adopted children from abuse.
While Congress is finally on the right track in investigating what amounts to "trafficking" of these unfortunate kids, there is a little known safeguard. Established in 1974, it is called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC. It is an agreement between the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. The pact requires that if a child is transferred outside of the family to a new home in a different state, parents have to notify authorities (Health and Human Services and the like) in both states. That way, prospective parents can be investigated.
The problem with the ICPC is that it isn't enforced equally, or some states don't punish the parties involved. What is a fact though, is that there is no state, federal or international laws that even give credence to the existence of re-homing.
More about rehoming, illegal adoptions, transfering custody, internet bulletin bords, Us congress
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