Children On The Market

Last week, the Senate held a hearing on child trafficking and re-homing.  The practice of re-homing involves parents giving away their adopted children to strangers they meet online.  The little-known practice gained some press when Reuters news service investigated the issue last year.

At the hearing, testimony from advocates urged Congress to restrict online advertisements for custody.  They also requested that all non-relative custody transfers be supervised and ordered by a court of law.  Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) testified that children were being transferred to homes and families that the adoptive parents had never met, and in some cases had a history of child abuse and neglect.  In many cases, the adoptive parents turn to re-homing because they are overwhelmed with the child’s behavioral problems.  Re-homing is faster and cheaper than a formal adoption – which requires a background check, a home inspection, and a hearing in court.

Since money doesn’t directly change hands, it’s not trafficking.  So there is currently no federal law prohibiting the practice.  So far, only four states (Wisconsin, Colorado, Louisiana, and Florida) have passed laws placing restrictions on advertising children, transferring custody, or both.  We will see if Virginia and the District of Columbia propose legislation as well.  Since re-homing is happening over the Internet, and many times across state borders, some Senators are asking for a federal response to the problem.  It makes sense that if a child is going to transfer homes, the court should be involved.  No parent should be able to transfer custody over the internet.

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