Langevin Convenes Roundtable To Discuss Solutions to Re-homing

May 27, 2014 Issues: Children and Families, Foster Youth, Rhode Island

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) today convened a roundtable discussion to bring to light the unregulated practice of privately re-homing adopted children. Joining the panel at the Rhode Island State Police Scituate Barracks were Tarikuwa Lemma and Liya Foust, two young women from Ethiopia who were brought to America and re-homed during the adoption process.

Private re-homing is a term typically used to describe pet owners looking for a new home for their animals. But a Reuters investigative series revealed an online underworld where this re-homing is just as often used to shift guardianship of children – without regulation, without oversight and without consequence. In some situations, the custody of children is transferred to individuals with a criminal history, or those who have lost custody of their own children due to abuse or neglect.

“The Reuters investigative series was a clear call to action,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “I was shocked and saddened to learn just how common re-homing is, and I know that it is going to take the collaboration of law enforcement, legislators and experienced child advocates to figure out a solution. I am so grateful to the panel participants for sharing their experiences and expertise, and I believe that, together, we can help end this illegal, unconscionable practice.”

In Congress, Langevin convened a briefing that featured child welfare experts and Megan Twohey, the Reuters reporter who first broke the story. On the legislative side, he introduced H.R. 3423, the Protecting Adopted Children Act, which would provide for pre- and post-adoptive counseling assistance to ease the transition for children and families; he is co-leading H.R. 4704, a bill to expand the training of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to include offers to re-home children; and he is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 4058, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act, which would help prevent child sex trafficking. Langevin also commissioned a GAO study to investigate re-homing and recommend actions to Congress.

Langevin was joined on the panel by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Rhode Island State Police Commissioner Steven O’Donnell, Rhode Island DCYF Director Dr. Janice DeFrances, Adoption Rhode Island Executive Director Darlene Allen and Maureen Flatley, an expert in adoption oversight and reform who brought in Lemma and Foust to share their first-person accounts.

“Rhode Island has strict laws on adoption to ensure the safety and security of children. This disturbing trend of re-homing places children at risk. This illegal and immoral practice of giving children away to virtual strangers must end. I commend Congressman Langevin for being a leader on the national front to stop illegal re-homing, and I pledge to work with him on the state level to place and keep children in loving, caring and safe homes,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

“Re-homing is certainly not a new issue, but it is a craftier way of exploiting people for human trafficking and sexual exploitation,” said Rhode Island State Police Commissioner Colonel Steven O’Donnell. “The attention put on the issue by leaders and advocates is designed to protect those who are vulnerable to this type of abuse and exploitation. I would like to commend Congressman James Langevin and Dr. Janice DeFrances for their leadership on such an important matter.”

“All children deserve safe and stable families,” said Darlene Allen, the executive director of Adoption Rhode Island. “We must enact practices, policies and laws that prevent re-homing of adopted children as well as develop adoption-competent and trauma-informed systems and services to support children and families impacted by adoption.”

“Congressman Jim Langevin has shown incredible leadership and moral courage in his efforts to bring more attention and accountability to the issue of ‘rehoming’,” said Maureen Flatley. “As a recent Reuters investigative series revealed, Americans are abandoning children adopted from around the world at an alarming rate, often subjecting them to abuse, neglect and unimaginable exploitation. Mr. Langevin’s efforts to investigate and stop this disturbing practice are to be commended.”