The media has recently been covering the topic of “re-homing.” Re-homing occurs when an adoptive family locates someone else to take in and care for their child without checking into the new family’s history, completing background checks, or involving their adoption agency or other legal entities in the change of custody. Interestingly, the term “re-homing” is not familiar to many within the adoption community.
I think most people felt speechless when they first read the articles. How could anyone leave a child with a complete stranger? What would possess someone to think this was the best option? Certainly, desperate people will do desperate things, but this seems outrageous, right? So many in the adoption community agree. Since this news broke, we have seen public responses from organizations and agencies working on behalf of children and families.
Upon reading more details of the investigation done by Reuters, I was relieved to see that many of the 261 cases of children advertised for new homes on the Internet included agency involvement, with mention of home study requirements as well as post placement services. One child posting that Reuters uncovered in their investigation read: “There will be no fees associated with this adoption, aside from the costs associated with home study, visiting with the child prior to placement, post-placement services, and final adoption court costs.”
Of course even one case of handing over a child to a new family without a home study, background checks, or preparation is unacceptable. So the big question to me, as someone who works in the adoption field, is why are some families not reaching out to their agencies? Or are they reaching out to discover that their agency doesn’t have the resources to offer post-adoption support?
There are a variety of reasons I can think of that a family might not reach out to their agency:
- Feelings of failure and embarrassment
- Worry that they would not be approved to adopt again
- Feelings that they are the only family experiencing difficulties
There are also reasons why an anonymous, on-line support group like the ones mentioned in the Reuters’ article might feel like a safe place to express one’s feelings and seek help:
- Anonymity equals less shame or embarrassment
- Talking to other parents who have similar experiences normalizes our feelings
- Judgments are more easily ignored when there is anonymity
It’s true, unfortunately, that not all agencies are equipped to assist families who are struggling post adoption. There is a need for increased, quality post-adoption services, but some agencies don’t have the staffing or financial resources available to make it possible. Excuses aside, many agencies are working to improve their post-adoption services as the trends in international adoption move towards placing children who are either older or who have more moderate special needs.
Agencies, however, need help from the adoptive families too. As families commit to parent through adoption, they also commit to be responsible for their child. An agency is there to guide you, to support you, to lead you in the direction of resources they are unable to provide. But they cannot be there 24/7 or make sure you learn everything possible about how adoption can impact a child long-term. Sadly, there are many families who are ill-prepared for the reality of parenting a child who has experienced trauma in their early life. Families should choose an agency that they feel has a good support system in place, the kind of support system they feel their family might need long-term. They should stay in touch with the agency post-adoption and connect with other adoptive families so they have access to support in the event that things get tough. Finding new adoptive parents for a child is something agencies are capable of doing in legal and ethical ways, but only when families choose to involve the agency in the situation.
News like this – with such shock value – tends to be perceived as the rule, rather than the exception. Most international adoptions are very successful. The children are loved, the parents are happy, and the family is strong. With that said, we cannot ignore that disruption is indeed a reality in the adoption world. Many children who are re-adopted, however, go on to thrive and do wonderfully in their second homes. Additionally, I believe it is safe to say that a majority of these adoptions or re-homing situations are done in the legal manner and not through an underground network of unreliable and untrustworthy individuals.