Photo by Alyssa Marie

A silent form of child trafficking exists and not enough is being said or done about it. It is known as rehoming. According to Michele Jackson, JD, “rehoming is a non-legal term describing the practice of placing an adoptive child in another family’s home.”

If you Google “rehoming,” it’s disheartening to see children alongside animals in the results. What was once a term related to finding unwanted pets a new home is now a term that is being used for children. This is due to parents across the country who are in such crisis that they feel their best option is to rehome their children—give their child to another family without any government involvement. They choose to partake in what Reuters has named, “America’s underground market.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Parents giving away their kids.

These parents are adoptive parents and the children being rehomed are their adopted children. The “underground market” has been created and accessed online in Yahoo groups and on other platforms. It is comprised of adoptive families expressing their desire to give their children to another family. Many adoptive families are not aware of their children’s unique needs stemming from the long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (such as a child’s early separation from a caregiver, abuse, neglect, or experiences in an orphanage). Some of their children may have been appropriately diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) while others will continue to be misdiagnosed with disorders ranging from Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These are children who did not have the loving, nurturing experiences the brain needs for healthy development. This often results in extremely challenging behaviors (such as aggression, dissociation, and inability to cope with emotions in a healthy way to name a few) that will persist and worsen without an appropriate approach. Effective approaches include Daniel Hughes’ Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) and trauma-informed practices. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness of these issues, there are not enough safety nets and effective services for adoptive families in crisis to turn to. We need more solutions.

Adoptive families have loving intentions. They want to change a child’s life for the better. They open their hearts and homes to their child. Although there is deep disappointment when the reality is much different than their dreams, there is never an excuse to put a child in harm’s way—physically or emotionally. Children who have been rehomed often end up in dangerous circumstances.

Fortunately, Reuters investigated this issue in 2013. The findings included children being rehomed in the hands of child molesters and failed interventions by the government. Since then, it is reported that Yahoo rehoming groups have been shut down and states have been cracking down more on this issue. But it still persists—one family recently made headlines due to their desire to “return” their children (Couple wants to void adoption of ‘mentally ill’ Russian orphans via Tina Traster, NY Post).

This violation of human rights will only lessen with better understanding and effective resources for adoptive families. We must advocate for them and empower them to advocate for themselves. We need more action on both the state and federal level to address rehoming and the gaps in services. As professionals working with children, it is important to take a trauma-informed approach. Understanding that behavior is an iceberg is the key to success. One way professionals can connect and refer families to effective therapists is through the Adoption/Foster Care Therapist Network. Parents can log onto Project Bond for resources and can find important phone numbers for crises at The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. With the appropriate support, these children and their families can thrive and no longer feel hopeless.

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