Reuters has published a five-part investigative report by Megan Twohey called “The Child Exchange: Inside America’s Underground Market for Adopted Children.” The first installment,  titled “Americans use the Internet to Abandon Children Adopted from Overseas” (September 9, 2013), describes a process in which adoptive parents and others advertise unwanted children in Yahoo and Facebook groups “and then pass them to strangers with little or no government scrutiny, sometimes illegally.”

Reuters analyzed more than 5ooo items posted over a five-year period on one Internet message board, finding that, on average, a child was advertised there for ”private rehoming” once a week. “Most of the children ranged in age from 6 to 14 and had been adopted from abroad – from countries such as Russia and China, Ethiopia and Ukraine. The youngest was 10 months old.” Custody is transferred informally, sometimes with the assistance of facilitators “whose activities can be naïve, reckless or illegal,” with the parents turning the child over to the new “parents” by means of a power of attorney.

Reports were also broadcast on NBC, and the story was picked up on many blogs including The Dish, the Daily Dot, and the NY Times Motherlode blog. Some responses to the Reuters series have focused on the need to provide adoptive parents with supportive services after intercountry adoption; see also this response from Holt International Children’s Services.  The U.S. State Department posted a response to the Reuters story on its intercountry adoption web site on September 18. Both Holt and the State Department pointed to the Universal Accreditation Act that will come into effect in 2014, which will require that all intercountry adoption service providers in the United States must be Hague -accredited.

NOTE: US Citizenship and Immigration Services has posted a policy memorandumwhich eases the process through which an adopted child, who does not have U.S. citizenship or LPR status, may self-petition for immigration classification in cases of abuse.