Hill Briefing on "Re-homing"
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) convened a Hill briefing on Thursday. A member of his staff opened the event and introduced the panel including Megan Toomey, the Rueters
investigative reporter who uncovered and brought the "re-homing" story to light;
Janice Goldwater, the CEO of the Maryland-based service agency Adoptions
Together; Joe Kroll, President of the North American Council on Adoptable
Children advocacy organization; and Joo Yeun Chang, Associate Commissioner at
the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and
Toomey described spending 18 months looking into this issue in which she uncovered over 5 thousand re-homing messages on one Internet message board posted over 5 years and about one child offered for "re-homing" every week. She expressed surprise that there was so little awareness and virtually no press coverage until her story broke. Toomey didn't find any prosecutions or oversight, just frighteningly informal transfers of children; she found an underground system.
Goldwater suspects that these cases are just the tip of the iceberg and warned that the Internet poses challenges for protecting all children, not just those adopted internationally. She applauded the report as an important wake-up call that desperate people will do desperate things and called for support for struggling families, including much more pre and post adoption services. She also advocated for a system of "voluntary placement" that families could utilize when needed that would provide necessary services without prosecution or terminating rights. She said there is such a system in Washington, DC and it is a model other jurisdictions should employ.
Kroll explained how adoptions have changed dramatically in recent years, but that policy and practice has lagged far behind. Many more children who are adopted have more serious challenges than before with greater behavioral and emotional health needs. Much more post adoption support is needed including options for voluntary placement.
Yuen Chang said she was not aware of the issue until
Toomey's story broke. After describing current ACF activities and programs, she
agreed that more needs to be done and looks forward to working with Congress to