The hearing comes in response to a Reuters investigation into the
practice, known as "private re-homing," which bypasses the
government's child welfare system. Reuters found online forums where
desperate parents solicited new families for children they no longer
wanted. The parents then transferred custody of the boys and girls
to strangers, often through nothing more than a notarized power of
No state or federal laws specifically prohibit re-homing. State laws
that restrict the advertising and custody transfers of children
rarely prescribe criminal sanctions and are frequently ignored.
After the news agency published its investigation in September, at
least four states passed new restrictions on advertising children,
transferring custody, or both. Lawmakers in those states noted that
the absence of government safeguards can result in children ending
up in the care of abusers.
Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Children and
Families represents the first time members of Congress will examine
the issue. The focus will be on how the federal government can help
state and local officials identify and prevent cases of re-homing,
as well as child trafficking.
Some child advocates say that congressional action is needed to
restrict re-homing. Joe Kroll, executive director of North American
Council on Adoptable Children, said a federal law should place
uniform restrictions on the advertising of children and require that
all custody transfers of children to non-relatives be approved by a
"So much of re-homing is across state lines," Kroll said. "It’s an
interstate issue. Because of all the cross-border activities,
state-by-state solutions just don’t work. You need a federal law
that addresses this."
In a report issued last year, the Congressional Research Service
said the interstate aspect of re-homing and the role of the Internet
in facilitating the practice gave Congress opportunities to act.
"Although there appears to be no federal criminal law implicated by
the general process of 're-homing,' this does not preclude Congress
from enacting laws to protect children that may be harmed by this
practice," the report said. The Government Accountability Office
will begin studying state and federal policies related to re-homing
[to top of second column]
No government agencies track re-homing, but Reuters identified eight
Internet groups in which members discussed, facilitated or engaged
in the practice. In a single Yahoo group, a child was offered to
strangers on average once a week during a five-year period. At least
70 percent of those children were listed as having been adopted from
overseas; many were described as suffering emotional or behavioral
problems. Yahoo has taken down the group.
Some re-homed children endured severe abuse, and the adults who used
the online network to obtain children were not properly vetted,
Reuters found. In one case, a man now serving prison time for child
pornography took home a 10-year-old boy whom he and a friend found
online hours earlier. They picked up the boy in a hotel parking lot.
At the request of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., officials from the
federal departments of State, Justice, Health and Human Services and
Homeland security have been discussing ways to address re-homing. In
May, Health and Human Services officials warned states about the
dangers of the practice and encouraged them to use existing federal
funding to support struggling adoptive families.
(Reporting By Megan Twohey. Edited by Blake Morrison.)
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