An underground system of online chat rooms exists for people to get rid of kids they have adopted, a joint investigation by NBC News and Reuters has found.
On average, a child was advertised for what’s euphemistically being called “re-homing” once a week on one Internet message board Reuters watched for a five-year period.
Most of the kids were between 6 and 14 years old and had been adopted from abroad. The youngest was 10 months old.
These children are not protected by any law enforcement, the investigation found. There are no government agencies monitoring these bulletin boards.
The Kids Aren’t All Right
Several children’s aid organizations TechNewsWorld contacted, which are registered as charities, declined to comment for this story.
“Unfortunately, no one will be able to help you in that area,” said a person who answered the phone at the Children’s Rights Council but refused to give TechNewsWorld her name.
“We won’t be able to answer your questions, as this is out of our expertise,” Lauren Ferguson of Children’s Rights told TechNewsWorld.
“We concentrate mainly on policy regarding children’s health and education,” Jennifer Hoffecker, spokesperson for Children Now, told TechNewsWorld.
Bless the Children, Not the Beasts
One girl from China, who was a polio victim, was sent off by her adopted parents after about a year to an isolated farmhouse in Tennessee where she was forced to scrub floors with a toothbrush as punishment, and forced to dig her own grave.
A Liberian girl was farmed out after two years to a couple whose biological children had been removed by the welfare authorities; they forced her to sleep naked in their bed.
“The thing that I find particularly appalling is, it seems we’re dealing with a situation where the child is doubly vulnerable,” Lisa Frydman, associate director and managing attorney at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, UC Hastings College of the Law, told TechNewsWorld.
“They’re both an adopted child and a foreign child brought to the U.S. — they have that many less ties and protections in the U.S.,” Frydman explained.
Farming out kids privately to situations where they are abused “would run afoul of numerous laws at both the state and federal level, ranging from child abandonment and child negligence to more specific laws such as The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act,” Yasha Heidari, managing partner, Heidari Power Law Group, told TechNewsWorld.
The U.S. Department of State has a specific department, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, to combat issues such as this, he continued.
Perhaps PRISM Is a Good Thing
The Internet has made it easier for criminals to traffic in human beings.
A parallel can be drawn here to child sex trafficking in the U.S., where “The No. 1 area we’re seeing is the Internet, where children are being sold for sex online through social media sites and online classified advertisements,” Staca Shehan, director of the Case Analysis Division at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, told TechNewsWorld.
“It’s the ease with which this can be done,” Shehan explained.
Yahoo took down “Adopting-from-Disruptions,” the bulletin Reuters had been monitoring after it learned what the news agency found. Yahoo also took down five other bulletin boards identified by Reuters.
However, Facebook has allowed a similar private forum, “Way Stations of Love,” to remain online. The Internet is a reflection of society, a Facebook spokesperson apparently told the investigators.
It is difficult to clamp down on this type of activity because “there is not a clear Internet-related crime classification to control this type of behavior,” Frydman said. “There need to be more, clearer Federal laws.”
One consolation may be that people who farm out their adoptive kids illicitly could be liable for tort “because once you have a duty owed to some person, if you put them in a more dangerous place and they’re harmed by somebody else, you’re responsible for that,” David Levine, a professor of law at UC Hastings College of the Law, told TechNewsWorld.
However, someone would have to file a tort action on behalf of the victim.