Doggett, Langevin React to GAO Report on Re-homing

Sep 17, 2015 Issues: Foster Youth

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week that recognizes the growing problem of “re-homing,” an unregulated custody transfer of adopted children. The report was conducted at the request of Congressmen Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Jim Langevin (D-RI), who jointly urged the GAO on March 12, 2014 for a review of current federal and state policies regarding the re-homing of adopted children.

The report found that families who choose to re-home a child are often unprepared for the challenges of raising an adopted child. According to GAO investigators, “many stakeholders we interviewed … expressed concern with the adequacy of the information provided to prospective parents on the behavioral and mental health conditions of a child adopted internationally.” Additionally, families that have trouble accessing pre- and post-adoption counseling are at a higher risk of choosing an unregulated custody transfer. The GAO noted that “the need for post-adoption services exceeded the funding available from state and federal programs.”

“This report sheds light on children in our country who live and suffer in the shadows,” said Doggett, who is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Human Resources on the House Committee on Ways and Means. “The dangers of rehoming are unacceptable. Prevention, not reaction, is essential to ensuring every child is safe, happy and healthy.”

Child welfare has long been a concern for Doggett, whose “Protect Our Kids Act” was signed into law in 2013, establishing a Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. He is also leading the effort in the House on the “Family Stability and Kinship Care Act,” a bill that would give states unprecedented ability to use federal funds for preventative services that can stabilize families in crisis, helping to keep kids safely at home or be united with their parents.

Langevin, too, has pushed to provide better protections for children. He introduced the “Protecting Adopted Children Act” to address the alarming and growing practice of re-homing. The legislation provides for pre- and post-adoptive counseling and helps to fund treatments specialized for adopted children, including psychiatric residential services, outpatient mental health services, social skills training, intensive in-home supervision services, recreational therapy, suicide prevention and substance abuse treatment. Adoptive parents would have access to peer-to-peer mentoring and support groups, and could access a 24-hour emergency hotline.

“Re-homing is a serious problem that impacts too many young people, particularly those who have already faced trauma or are coming to the United States from international adoption. These vulnerable children want and deserve a loving home, and we must do everything in our power to protect them from the dangers of re-homing,” said Langevin, a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth who has been a leader in Congress on tackling the issue of re-homing. “This GAO study is an important step in recognizing a problem and shedding light on an underground practice that must be stopped. The findings make clear what children affected by rehoming already know to be true – that preventive services and strong support networks for adopted children and adoptive parents are critical to prevent the breakdown of adoptions.”

Langevin became aware of this crisis after Reuters published an investigative series, “The Child Exchange,” that detailed shortcomings in adoption services and found instances in which international adopted children in particular were re-homed and placed into dangerous situations. In response, Langevin convened a re-homing roundtable discussion in May of 2014 with adoption and law enforcement experts that shed light on the issue. In April of 2015, he invited journalist Dan Rather to speak to the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and screen his re-homing documentary, “Unwanted in America.”