By Stefano Montanari
Democrats in both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation that seeks to curb the practice of “re-homing,” the transfer of adopted children from adoptive parents to another family without government intervention.
The Protecting Adopted Children Act – or H.R. 2068 – would provide a set of pre- and post-adoption measures intended to prevent children from entering foster care or from being privately transferred to non-family members without child welfare or judicial oversight.
Bill author Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, said this initiative is a response to the many problems and dangers associated with private re-homing of adopted children.
H.R. 2068 would expand the definition of child exploitation established by the Protect Our Children Act of 2008, adding re-homing to the mandate of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces. ICACs are a network of more than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies coordinated by the Department of Justice to respond to cyber enticement and child pornography cases.
According to an investigation published by Reuters in 2013, hundreds of children are victims of re-homing in the U.S. every year. Seventy percent of them are children adopted from abroad. In April, Arkansas adopted two laws to prevent re-homing in the wake of a dramatic case involving a state legislator, Justin Harris.
Parents engaging in re-homing often mention the lack of support as a reason for their actions. One study reported that only 26 percent of adoptive families in the United States felt they received quality mental health services.
“We need to find a solution that includes law enforcement but also addresses the root causes behind why adoptive parents could feel so desperate that they would re-home an innocent child into the custody of strangers,” said Langevin, in an e-mail.
The Act intends to address these problems by providing counseling, educational and psychological support, mental health treatments and social skills training for adopted children. Adoptive parents would also have access to peer-to-peer mentoring and support groups in order to learn from other adoptive parents, and could access a 24-hour emergency hotline.
H.R. 2068 would also introduce provisions requiring the collection and analysis of data on state-sponsored post-adoption services to evaluate their effectiveness, and would extend support measures, such as training, educational support, counseling, case management, and other services for adoptive parents and families, until an adopted child has reached the age of 21.
This is not the first time that legislative initiatives are taken to support adoptive families since the Reuters’ investigation. In September and October 2013, Langevin and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced two similar bills that did not move past the committee stage in the 2013–2015 Congress session, according to GovTrack.
Last February, Klobuchar reintroduced her bill, which awaits a hearing at the Senate Committee on Finance. According to Langevin, the political awareness of the risks that re-homing poses to children has increased.
“When I first introduced the Protecting Adopted Children Act in the last session of Congress, re-homing was an issue of which many people, including my colleagues in government, were unaware”Langevin said. “There is a growing awareness of this problem, however, and I feel confident that when people learn about re-homing and some of the atrocities that have taken place because of this illegal practice, they will understand the critical need for action.”
Stefano Montanari is a freelance journalist based in Europe.