Bacon cosponsors bipartisan anti-rehoming legislation to protect adopted children

State child welfare agencies would be permitted to investigate alleged child adoption cases of unregulated custody transfers, also known as rehoming, under a bipartisan bill introduced on Feb. 27 by U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE).

Rep. Bacon is the lead original cosponsor of the Safe Home Act, H.R. 1389, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), which would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to include unregulated custody transfers (UCT) in the definition of child abuse and neglect, according to the congressional record.

According to the federal Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), UCT/rehoming is the practice of adoptive parents transferring custody of a child to another individual or group without the involvement of relevant authorities. Often UCT occurs via underground online advertisements of the adopted children made by the adoptive parents or guardians.

“UCT/rehoming is inclusive of all types of adoptions: public/foster, private, and intercountry,” according to the bureau, which added that “most adopted children are already vulnerable and have experienced trauma (i.e., separation and loss) and the disruption and additional placement in another home creates additional trauma and instability.”

If enacted, H.R. 1389 would amend the definition of child abuse to explicitly include UCT and would authorize state child welfare agencies to investigate such cases.

“The Safe Home Act will provide needed protections for vulnerable children at risk and prevent the rehoming of adopted children,” said Rep. Bacon. “Our kids deserve safety, warmth and stability and I look forward to working with Congressman Langevin to get this bill passed.”

Rep. Langevin said that H.R. 1389 would update “federal law to put an end to this disturbing practice.”

Maureen Flatley, a national child welfare expert who participated in a UCT briefing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 28, pointed out that few protections exist in many states if a family wants to relinquish their adopted child. H.R. 1389, she said, would “ensure that children are protected in all 50 states.”

Specifically, H.R. 1389 would add UCT as a form of child abuse and neglect under the definitions found in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, according to the text of the bill, and would allow for the temporary placement of an adopted child with a trusted relative.

Additionally, H.R. 1389 would provide more funds to states toward fighting the practice of UCT and would require HHS to issue UCT guidance and make regular reports to Congress on the illegal practice, according to the text.

H.R. 1389 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.