The Underground Use of the Internet to Re-Home Unwanted Children
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 • 4:22pm
An 18-month Reuters news agency investigation has discovered an underground network of adoptive parents advertising online and handing over their unwanted children, often who were adopted from overseas, to strangers. This was done without the oversight of the child welfare system to protect the children’s best interests.
The Reuters investigation reveals that parents have been posting these ads through virtual communities in Yahoo Groups, Facebook and elsewhere online. Reuters has recently found one now-disbanded message board in which an average of at least one child a week was being advertised. Most of the children ranged in age from 6 to 14, the youngest child being 10 months old. Approximately 70 percent of the children had been adopted from abroad.
In many cases, the investigation reports, parents were interested in re-homing because they felt unable to meet their children’s needs. In a Yahoo group that Reuters analyzes, many of the children offered for re-homing were described as facing troubles - such as attachment disorders or a history of sexual or physical abuse.
The Reuters investigation discovered that some children who were re-homed have endured severe abuse. While parents turning to these online forums may have had good intentions, their unregulated behavior has exposed these children to a lawless marketplace that has attracted pedophiles and others who may not have good motives.
For example, Reuters learned that one girl who, was adopted from China and later sent to a second home, was forced to dig her own grave by her abusive guardians. The investigation also told the story of a 13-year-old girl who was re-homed three times within six months.
The Reuters report explains that families have the ability to transfer custody quickly by using a basic "power of attorney" document declaring the child to be in the care of another adult. Power of attorney documents are traditionally used in instances where parents need to send their children to stay with a trusted relative or other guardian for a short period of time. With these documents, Reuters states, the new guardians are able to enroll a child in school or secure government benefits. Families seeking to re-home are utilizing these documents to circumvent the formal adoption process.
After Reuters advised Yahoo of the re-homing message board on its site, the company shut it down, along with other similar groups. Reuters stated that a re-homing Facebook group was still active, however a search reveals it is no longer accessible on the social network.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in the adoption field, recently published a report, entitled Untangling the Web: The Internet's Transformative Impact on Adoption, which evaluates the impact of the internet on adoption. One key goal of this report by the Adoption Institute is to stimulate a national discussion about the Internet’s impact on adoption and how to regulate Internet-based adoption services. It aims to assure that they are legal and ethical, and that the interests of all those affected –particularly children– are protected.
Domestic adoption agencies offer a variety of counseling and support services to help adoptive parents facing challenges. They also offer services to ethically handle the disruption of an adoption, if necessary. Individuals should not have the ability to utilize the internet to circumvent the child welfare system that exists to protect the best interest of children. Working with licensed adoption professionals will safeguard the process that exists and ensure that the children are raised in permanent, safe and loving homes.
- Marni Denenberg is Director of Domestic Adoption Programs at Alliance for Children, Inc. www.allforchildren.org
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