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November 2015Vol. 16, No. 8Protecting Adopted Children From Rehoming

An unregulated child custody transfer, sometimes referred to as "rehoming," occurs when adoptive parents advertise their adopted child (usually via the Internet) in order to transfer custody of the child to adults who have not received public child welfare agency or court approval and oversight. The number of children who have been rehomed is unknown and difficult to determine, but recent high-profile cases in which children were transferred into abusive situations have resulted in a number of States passing laws banning the practice. A new publication, Responding to Rehoming: Protecting Children & Strengthening Adoptive Families, looks at laws and policies regarding the practice and affirms the need for greater protections for adopted children.

The publication examines policy changes that may prevent unregulated custody transfers, including improved screening of prospective parents, increased preparation and training, and increased access to quality postadoption services. Recommendations are also made for how these policies can be strengthened to better address the complex issues involved in rehoming, including the following:

  • Apply State child protection laws to all parents and their children, whether biological, kin, or adopted
  • Examine existing definitions of child abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment to identify how unregulated custody transfers already fit within current definitions
  • Examine and strengthen current child abuse reporting channels to specifically capture instances of online child maltreatment activity like unregulated custody transfers
  • Establish minimum training requirements and topics for all adoptions
  • Establish national minimum uniform home-study standards that apply to both domestic and intercountry adoptions
  • Provide incentives to States to establish public-private partnerships to implement quality community-based postadoption service programs
  • Invest in longitudinal research to support the development of evidence-based practices to meet the behavioral, developmental, and psychological health needs of adopted children and youth
  • Develop a database of postadoption services in each State
  • Prohibit requirements that adoptive parents (without findings of maltreatment) must relinquish custody of their children to access State-funded mental health services or short-term therapeutic residential treatment

Responding to Rehoming: Protecting Children and Strengthening Adoptive Families is a joint statement from the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Child Welfare League of America, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Donaldson Adoption Institute, North American Council on Adoptable Children, and Voice for Adoption. The publication is available at (515 KB).