Thursday, December 18, 2014


Rehoming is when adoptive parents decide to disrupt their adoption and find new adoptive parents or guardians for their adopted child. This is most often done due to behaviors that are beyond their ability to parent. Most adoptive parents complete a rehoming through the court system with an appropriate assessment of the new home. There have been cases when an adoptive parent simply transfers guardianship of their child to the new parents and has little to no knowledge about the family.

Perhaps I'm na├»ve, but this concept never crossed my mind before.  Unfortunately, it does seem to happen, and the courts and legislatures are beginning to do something about it.  Here is a recent ABA Journal article that discusses the legal background and framework:
Among pet owners, "re-homing" an unwanted dog or cat is a relatively straightforward process. The owner who seeks an alternative home often places an ad on the Internet, and a private transaction occurs that moves the pet to a new family. But with the rise of foreign adoptions of children and the inability of some parents to handle troubled youths, more and more desperate families are taking that approach with adopted youngsters and re-homing the children with strangers. Often those re-homed children report gruesome tales of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by their new guardians.
The process of re-homing has been largely unregulated—no federal laws prohibit the exchange of unwanted adopted kids. Most states allow private adoptions, but the processes vary widely and oversight is limited. In most cases, re-homing may be executed by a simple power-of-attorney letter or a notarized statement without government authorities or even any lawyers vetting the new parents.
I am reminded of the chapter in Anne of Green Gables when Marilla, determined to send Anne back as she and Mathew had requested a boy to help around the farm, discusses Anne's fate:
"It was our own fault," said Marilla resignedly. "We should have come to you ourselves and not left an important message to be passed along by word of mouth in that fashion. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only thing to do is to set it right. Can we send the child back to the asylum? I suppose they'll take her back, won't they?"
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Spencer thoughtfully, "but I don't think it will be necessary to send her back. Mrs. Peter Blewett was up here yesterday, and she was saying to me how much she wished she'd sent by me for a little girl to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know, and she finds it hard to get help. Anne will be the very girl for you. I call it positively providential."
Marilla did not look as if she thought Providence had much to do with the matter. Here was an unexpectedly good chance to get this unwelcome orphan off her hands, and she did not even feel grateful for it.
She knew Mrs. Peter Blewett only by sight as a small, shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous flesh on her bones. But she had heard of her. "A terrible worker and driver," Mrs. Peter was said to be; and discharged servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess, and her family of pert, quarrelsome children. Marilla felt a qualm of conscience at the thought of handing Anne over to her tender mercies.

To a large extent, I understand WHY parents might decide to rehome.  During our "training" as prospective adoptive parents, we were told about the potential problems that adopted children might have, including severe behavioral issues ranging from attachment disorders to violent behavior (in Green Gables, Marilla is advised that adopted children put strychnine in the well water!).  We've seen from the experience of friends who've adopted that the medical files aren't always... um... completely accurate.  In short, the well-intentioned parents may find themselves with a situation that is financially and emotionally beyond their capabilities.  What to do?  Is it not in everybody's interest to give the child ASAP to a family that CAN handle the situation?

This is a difficult question.  On the one hand, I can see how "rehoming" might well be the best option for all concerned.  On the other - and I realize that this is an easy thing to write - parenting is not like a job where one can just quit because the (shall we say?) terms of employment turn out to be rather different than promised.  How is the adoptive parent who finds himself with a "difficult" child any different than the birth parent who finds himself with, for example, a severely handicapped child or a child with very difficult behavioral problems?  My wife and I talked about this during the process: "What if ---?" Our decision was that we would take what came just as we would have done had we had a biological child*.

But there are those parents (and I realize that we might have been amongst their number; there but for the Grace of God goes Sherlock Holmes) who don't chose to stick it out.  Clearly, there must be a legal framework for rehoming.  The child has very likely been abandoned once; it shouldn't happen again.  He doesn't deserve to go from bad to worse.
"Kids shouldn't be in want ads like: 'Our dog just had puppies. Want one for free?' " adds [Ann] Haralambie, a former chair of the ABA Family Law Section's Juvenile Law and Needs of Children Committee. "That's precisely where people like the mentally ill and pedophiles go to get children. At best, it's abandonment, and at worst, it's human trafficking."

Ultimately, the burden falls on the prospective parents to decide if they really are prepared to deal with whatever may come.  Anne Shirley turned out to be a fine young lady and a joy to the Cuthberts; I think that such is the case with the vast majority of adopted children.  But things MAY not go so well, and people do themselves and ESPECIALLY the children a huge injury if they ignore this possibility and, hence, can't deal with it if it comes to pass.**
Haralambie, too, believes that re-homing signals "a much more basic, systemic problem"—the lack of resources to properly screen prospective parents and to inform both the child and the family of what to expect from adoption. "Adoptive parents need to have a real-life reality check and then real good support once those children arrive."
Adoption is an on-going learning experience for everybody, from the government agencies to the social workers to the parents to the children.  Each year, we learn more about what we've done well and what we need to do better.  As hard as it can be to read what some adopted children write about their experiences and viewpoints, we need to hear what EVERYBODY has to say to make the process as fool-proof as we can.  After all, we are talking about the lives of children: none of us want to foul up.


(*) Early in the process, I wondered if I could accept - nay, love - an adopted child as I could a biological child.  I'm very, very happy to say that, with my daughter, that question has been answered unequivocally in the affirmative.

(**) I highly recommend to the prospective adoptive parent Patty Cogen's Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: I read this before we were matched, and I must say that it was tough sledding as Cogen pulls no punches on what CAN happen.

Patty Cogen.  Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years.  Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2008.


  1. Such a hard topic. When we first started down the adoption road, I thought that giving up a child after adopting them was the most horrible thing ever. I didn't understand how a parent could ever do such a thing. But as time went on, and as I started reading people's stories, I came to see things through a different perspective - how hard it can be for parents who were ill-prepared for an adoption or are experiencing much worse behavior than they had expected. I think everyone needs a huge dose of grace. I still hesitate and wonder how a parent could ever give a child up, especially one they had to jump through so many hoops for to bring home.

    But the pre-adoption "education" is often times a joke. We learned WAY more on our own - following blogs of older child adoption, reading books from the library, making friends with other parents. The education required by our agency was so surface level that I can see why a parent would be completely overwhelmed if that was the only adoption preparation they did.

    1. I think our local agency has been a cut above, but, like you, we did A LOT of reading on the side. The internet has been indispensible, and we were very fortunate that there are several adoptive families in the area that were more than willing to offer good advice (and encouragement!).

      But I have to wonder about people who "rehome": what did they think they were getting into?

      Hope your process is going well (it seems a snail's pace, which has got to be driving you crazy), and Merry Christmas.

    2. I love that a lot of adoptive families are willing to share what has worked and what hasn't worked for them. The advice is invaluable!

      Hmmm... I think people are naive in thinking that adopting a child is going to be just like having a bio child at home. If they already have children at home, they think that they can parent the adopted child the same as the bio child. I've seen it in online groups. "My kid won't sleep in his own room even though I know he had his own bed at the foster home." Ok... maybe that's because your child doesn't know you yet, doesn't trust you yet, and is not used to the silence in your home at night. Maybe they haven't adjusted to the time change. Of course your 12 year old is freaked out at night and roams the house. Ordering him to stay in his bedroom all night, refusing to sleep in there with him, etc. isn't going to help him adjust quicker.

      My dad's wife thinks that adopted kids should be spanked and sent to time out when they do something bad. Really? You're going to spank a 12 year old that might have been physically abused in the orphanage? You're going to send them away to their room when they have deep rooted abandonment issues due to being dumped on the doorstep of an orphanage at an early age? And you think that didn't cause them to rage for four hours? Really???

      Sorry. :) I get uptight watching parents post about their children and how they are having issues. Of course they are having issues. They didn't get nurtured by a mom and dad when they were babies. They were probably physically or sexually or emotionally abused in the orphanage they spent years living in. And no, the issues don't go away in six months. No, everything is not going to be rosy in six months when a child spent 4, 10, or 13 YEARS in an institutionalized environment. I don't know what people think they were getting into!!

      Ok, stepping off my soapbox now. ;) Yes, our process is driving us crazy! The social worker is/was supposed to meet with her this week to show her our family and ask if she wants to be adopted. We haven't heard any report back yet so we're not sure if the meeting has happened or if they just haven't made time to let our agency know how it went. Hopefully we'll hear soon. I'm impatient! :)

      Merry Christmas!!

    3. I agree. We went through some things like this with some of our friends / relatives. I think that adoption / adopted children are just so outside most people's experience that they naturally assume that they are just like bio children.

      BTW, saw an adoptee video on YouTube that might interest you.

    4. Thanks for the video link! It's interesting to hear advice from the perspective of the adoptee rather than the adopting parents. Some people advise to let your child have connection with friends from the orphanage and others advise to cut them off. Same thing with watching Chinese television - some people say yes, some say no. I wonder if it completely depends on the personality of the child. I loved her advice of being affectionate even if your child doesn't let on that they enjoy it!

    5. I hope it was helpful. I found it very interesting; thank heavens for the internet so that people can share their thoughts and ideas so readily.