Usually, you only see the term "private re-homing" on message boards where pet owners seek new caretakers for unwanted animals. But, Reuters reports, there's a far more sinister context for the phrase—on another, scarily similar network of online bulletin boards where desperate parents advertise and abandon children they regret adopting from overseas.
Through Yahoo and Facebook groups, parents and others advertise the unwanted children and then pass them to strangers with little or no government scrutiny, sometimes illegally, a Reuters investigation has found. It is a largely lawless marketplace. Often, the children are treated as chattel, and the needs of parents are put ahead of the welfare of the orphans they brought to America.
According to Reuters, over the course of five years a Yahoo message board called Adopting-from-Disruption (failed adoptions are sometimes referred to as "disrupted") featured an new ad for a child about once a week. At least 70 percent of kids advertised there had been adopted from overseas, including countries such as Russia, China, Ethiopia and the Ukraine. Most ranged from ages 6 to 14.
The solicitations bear a "striking" resemblance to the way owners would describe an unwanted pet:
"Born in October of 2000 – this handsome boy, 'Rick' was placed from India a year ago and is obedient and eager to please," one ad for a child read.
A woman who said she is from Nebraska offered an 11-year-old boy she had adopted from Guatemala. "I am totally ashamed to say it but we do truly hate this boy!" she wrote in a July 2012 post.
Another parent advertised a child days after bringing her to America. "We adopted an 8-year-old girl from China… Unfortunately, We are now struggling having been home for 5 days." The parent asked that others share the ad "with anyone you think may be interested."
After Reuters informed Yahoo of the message board, the company swiftly shut it down, along with five other groups. Reuters said a similar Facebook group called "Way Stations of Love" was still active, although it's no longer searchable on the social network. A Facebook spokesperson initially defended the group to Reuters, explaining "that the Internet is a reflection of society, and people are using it for all kinds of communications and to tackle all sorts of problems, including very complicated issues such as this one."
But as Reuters notes, "[g]iving away a child in America can be surprisingly easy," and the process allows for flexibility that benefits the child. But these online forums circumvent existing safeguards.
The Reuters investigation found that some children who were adopted and later re-homed have endured severe abuse. Speaking publicly about her experience for the first time, one girl adopted from China and later sent to a second home said she was made to dig her own grave. Another re-homed child, a Russian girl, recounted how a boy in one house urinated on her after the two had sex; she was 13 at the time and was re-homed three times in six months.
Nicole Eason, who had been accused of sexual abuse by children in her care and had her own newborn removed from her home by child welfare authorities because the "parents have severe psychiatric problems as well with violent tendencies," was able to take in a 16-year-old girl from Liberia named Quinta by forging documents in a response to an ad on one of those sites.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Eason described her parenting style as: "Dude, just be a little mean, OK? … I'll threaten to throw a knife at your ass, I will. I'll chase you with a hose. I won't leave burns on you. I won't leave marks on you. I'm not going to send you with bruises to school."
The headline of this post initially indicated that parents were selling adopted children via Facebook and Yahoo groups. As the Reuters story reported, "re-homing often costs nothing. In fact, taking a child may enable the new family to claim a tax deduction and draw government benefits."
[Image via Reuters]