Reuters reported in September that parents were transferring
custody of their unwanted adopted children to strangers met on the
Internet, often with no government oversight and sometimes
illegally. No state or federal laws specifically prohibit the
practice, which is known as "re-homing." And state laws that
restrict the advertising and custody transfers of children are often
confusing, and rarely spell out criminal sanctions.
In the absence of government safeguards, boys and girls have been
placed in the care of abusers and others who escape scrutiny. In one
case, a mother gave her nine-year-old adopted son to a pedophile in
a motel parking lot in Wisconsin within hours of posting an
advertisement for the child on a Yahoo group.
The Wisconsin law, signed Wednesday by Republican Gov. Scott Walker,
makes it illegal for anyone not licensed by the state to advertise a
child over age one 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 up to $10,000 in fines.
"The Reuters reports outlined massive pratfalls in current law that
allowed children to be advertised on social networks on the
Internet," said Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who sponsored
the Wisconsin legislation. "With virtually no oversight, children
could literally be traded from home to home. In Wisconsin, that is
now against the law. Hopefully citizens of the country will follow
Ohio, Colorado and Florida also have introduced legislation aimed at
protecting children from re-homing.
The Ohio legislation, similar to the Wisconsin law, was introduced
last month, after Reuters reported that a girl adopted from Haiti
was passed among four homes in two years. The last family to take
her, in Marysville, Ohio, abruptly sent her away after she helped
bring to light allegations of sexual abuse of other children in the
home, prosecutors allege in charging documents. The father, Jean
Paul Kruse, was later charged with raping two daughters and sexually
abusing a third. The mother, Emily Kruse, was charged with
obstructing justice and intimidating a witness. Both have pleaded
[to top of second column]
The Haitian girl's adoptive mother, in Idaho, solicited new families
for her on a Yahoo group called Adoption-from-Disruption. Reuters
examined 5,000 messages on the group going back five years, and
found that a child was advertised on average once a week during that
period. Most of the children offered on the group had been adopted
from foreign countries. Yahoo quickly shut down the re-homing group
and others like it after Reuters brought them to its attention last
"Children are not property or used furniture to be advertised to
anybody on social media sites without the background checks and
protections for their welfare," said Democratic state Sen. Charleta
Tavares, a sponsor of the Ohio bill.
At the federal level, a group of 18 Republican and Democratic
members of Congress is seeking hearings to "identify ways to prevent
these dangerous practices." Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, called for
broad action in a letter to Obama administration officials, writing
that it was "stunning" that "this practice of advertising children,
usually over state borders, does not seem to violate any federal
(Edited by Michael Williams)
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