Rehoming adopted kids -- how is this ethical?

Remember The Politician Who ‘Rehomed’ Adopted Kids? He’s Not The Only One Doing It

Remember Justin Harris, the Arkansas politician who came under scrutiny for “rehoming” his adopted kids, who ended up being sexually abused by the man he gave them to? His actions are drawing attention to a larger network of people doing exactly the same thing.

While Justin Harris seems to have skipped the portion of the re-adoption process that involves lawyers and legal paperwork (not to mention background checks of the new adoptive parents), there are organizations doing this in a more above-board manner. They offer previously adopted kids to new potential adoptive parents, and it is all done legally and officially.

However, adopted kids aren’t animals — and even the rehoming of animals is, of course, actively discouraged. Taking an animal home is a commitment — and adopting kids is, of course, a commitment on a far grander scale. Though there are certainly cases where a family can no longer care for its kids (adopted or biological), these should be few and far-between, and shouldn’t be a matter of tossing a kid to the next family because he turned out to have more serious emotional issues than the adoptive parents expected.

The Irreverent Psychologist addressed one such group in 2013, expressing concern about children whose faces are posted alongside what should be protected and private health and psychiatric information.

That group still exists — listing adopted kids on Facebook, with information and descriptions that would make any parent cry, and any child advocate growl. It’s called the Wasatch International Adoption Agency, and the group responded to the Irreverent Psychologist‘s concerns at the time, insisting that it was important and ethical to shared these kids’ information, so they could be adopted by parents who knew what services the kids would need.

On their Facebook page, the agency lists (for a fee) kids being offered by their adopted parents to a new home. Below are exerpts from some of their descriptions.

“Facebook friends, we are relisting Landon because he is still available. He is only 8 and has a lot of potential.”

“Jonathan loves chores. He has a great work ethic. He loves to work in the house and outside. He will weed the garden for hours.”

“Caitlyn is an adorable 12 year old adopted from a large Asian country. She had a special need of a cleft palate only, no cleft lip so her facial appearance is not affected.”

If those don’t make you squirm, there’s another listing for a boy who was adopted from China by a family who was told he had a hole in his heart and would need surgical corrections. Upon his arrival in the U.S., they learned that their new adopted child actually had a rare genetic condition affecting development, communication, and sleep patterns, among other things. Now they’re seeking to find him a “forever family” — a different one.

Then there’s the boy who was adopted at age 4, and rehomed because he wasn’t as quiet as the family’s daughter. His second adoptive home was in a large family — with two other kids his same age, as well as older and younger kids. They say he’s not “adapting well” and needs to be placed with a new family “ASAP.”

The good news is that WIAA does list qualifications for anyone interested in these kids — including a check of abuse/neglect registries. It’s not clear how thorough their background checks are, but they are making at least a perfunctory attempt to keep the kids from being adopted by abusers.

It also doesn’t neutralize that these kids are being listed like objects to be purchased, with a focus on prettiness (“Her facial appearance is not affected” isn’t the only such description — girls’ descriptions frequently focus on their blonde hair and blue eyes) and their willingness to work.

Incidentally, the Second Chance Adoption Facebook page disappeared briefly a few years ago — after Reuters investigated the practice of “rehoming” adopted kids and found cases of abuse, and specifically of pedophiles using the networks to find long-term victims.

It also doesn’t change that the internet is forever, and even if adopted by perfect families, these kids will later be able to look at these descriptions and see that they were described like products.

Of course, there are cases where once-happily-adopted kids find themselves again without parents and seeking a family — but is this really the way we want to go about it?

[Screenshot via Arkansas House]

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