To some, the idea is unthinkable: turning to the Internet to sell or just give away problem and unwanted children.
It’s called the “re-homing” of children, and according to a 2013 Reuters report, it’s not as implausible as one might think.
State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, introduced legislation Tuesday that would make the practice illegal in Louisiana — subject to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
It’s unclear whether re-homing children is a problem in Louisiana, but the lawmaker said she feels compelled to do something about it regardless.
“It’s an emerging thing around the country,” Dorsey-Colomb said. “We don’t want to be behind it; we want to be in front of this.”
The senator said she first learned of the practice during a trip to Los Angeles, where child advocates spoke to her about an Internet subculture in which children are bartered and sold or sometimes given away for free.
Dorsey-Colomb said the majority of the children had been adopted from abroad, with many of them suffering from emotional problems or mental illness. In those circumstances, adoptive parents often find themselves overwhelmed and start looking for a way out, she said.
That’s when the parents turn to the Internet to advertise children they no longer want.
The Reuters report found a since-closed Yahoo message board where a child was advertised for re-homing once a week. Many of the children were younger than 14 and from a wide-range of countries including Ukraine, Russia, Ethiopia and China. The report found a similar group on Facebook.
Dorsey-Colomb said parents typically will post a picture of the unwanted child, then wait to hear from an interested party.
The children are often exchanged with as little as a written agreement giving power of attorney of the child from one individual to another.
“This is an underground thing,” Dorsey-Colomb said. “Some of these parents will say, ‘I’ve had this child for three years, I need to be reimbursed,’ or sometimes they’ll just give them away.
“These are exploited children being sold to pedophiles and rapists and people who are hurting them mentally,” she said.
Kaaren Hebert, an executive with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, has been working with Dorsey-Colomb on the issue.
In a statement, Hebert said the agency “doesn’t have broad indications (re-homing) is an issue in Louisiana.”
“But we know that it is a concern nationally, particularly with children adopted from outside of the United States,” Hebert said.
Hebert added DCFS provides post-adoption training for families and children who experience difficulties.
“Problems need to be addressed early before they escalate to a point where parents feel no other options except to remove the child from their home,” Hebert said.
Dorsey-Colomb’s Senate Bill 586 passed out of the state Senate’s Judiciary A Committee and goes to the Senate for further consideration.