After almost a year’s worth of work, Congressman James Langevin recently introduced the Protecting Adopted Children Act.
Last year, Langevin, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, hosted a round table discussion on “re-homing,” a practice where the guardianship of adopted children is illegally changed. Re-homing is considered a form of human trafficking and can often lead to children being sent to unsafe homes without regulation or oversight.
Victims of re-homing, policymakers and adoption experts attended the event to discuss various ways the issue of re-homing should be and needs to be addressed.
Langevin said in a press release that all children deserve a stable home where they can feel loved.
“Too often, these at-risk youth can fall through the cracks and bounce from placement to placement, a traumatic experience for an innocent child who just wants a family and a home to call their own,” Langevin said.
Langevin has received bipartisan support from both Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a democrat from Texas, and Congressman Rob Wittman, a Republican from Virginia.
Johnson believes this legislation provides the tools families and law enforcement need to keep children “who yearn to be a part of a family” safe and protected from illegal means of unregulated guardianship transfer.
“Too many children today are falling victim to a system that lacks necessary oversight. As a child of adoption myself, I am personally invested in this issue,” Wittman said.
This legislation would help adoptive children and parents access pre- and post-adoptive counseling to help families through the transition. Parents will also have the opportunity to participate in “peer-to-peer mentoring” and support groups.
Similarly, the legislation would help to fund those programs and treatments such as psychiatric residential services, outpatient mental health services, social skills training, intensive in-home supervision services, recreational therapy, suicide prevention and substance abuse treatment that are essential to keeping all children, especially adopted children, safe.
One thing stressed at the round table discussion last year, which would be implemented through this legislation, would be a 24-hour emergency hotline.
Last year, Tarikuwa Lemma, a young woman who survived re-homing, after being taken from her Ethiopian home under false promises, said if she had had someone to reach out to whom she could speak with about the things happening in her home, she may not have been trapped in her situation.
Langevin’s bill would also add the illegal transfer of a child to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force responsibilities, which will give law enforcement another avenue through which to curb re-homing. The ICAC Task Force works with pre-existing law enforcement to investigate cases of child exploitation.
Although re-homing is illegal in many states, it continues to be an issue and Langevin feels more action needs to be taken.
He said, “This complex problem requires more than a legal solution; it requires a support system for potential adoptive parents and a safety net that ensures we do not lose track of these kids.”
He feels this legislation attacks the problem at its “root causes” by educating families before and adoption about the issues they may face and providing services necessary to keep a “safe environment for every child.”