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August 2019   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Unregulated Custody Transfer of Adopted Children

An unregulated custody transfer, often referred to as rehoming, is the practice of adoptive parents transferring custody of a child to another individual or family without the involvement of the child welfare or other appropriate systems. Families seeking to rehome their children find alternative placements for them through informal, unregulated means—often through online groups and forums. The transfers can be executed through a power-of-attorney or notarized statement without the oversight of government authorities or the child welfare system. Additionally, these unregulated custody transfers lack criminal background checks or clearances of the child’s new caretaker(s).

The unregulated custody transfer of children may violate State-specific, Federal, and/or international laws, depending on if the child was adopted through private, public, or intercountry adoption and if the child was placed across State or jurisdictional lines. Even in cases where the practice does not violate the law, all rehomed children are at greater risk for child abuse, neglect, and exploitation due to the additional trauma caused by the disruption to their home life and the lack of placement oversight. Addressing this issue requires the child welfare system to invest in stronger postadoption services and supports so that families do not turn to such harmful and risky practices. These services include better mental health services and treatments for children who are recovering from past traumas, as well as supports for parents to help them better care for and understand their adopted children.

The Capacity Building Center for States developed a tip sheet for child protection and child welfare professionals to better recognize, prevent, and respond to the rehoming of children. The tip sheet defines rehoming, offers best-practice intake screening questions, explains the added risk of harm to rehomed children, and outlines concerns over how rehoming can potentially violate the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act and the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Lastly, the tip sheet provides guidance on connecting adoptive parents who report difficulty with an adopted child to support services in order to prevent future rehoming.


3 Resources About Rehoming Adopted Children

Unregulated Custody Transfer/Re-homing of Adopted Children


By the Capacity Building Center for States


Providing Adoption Support and
Preservation Services

By Child Welfare
Information Gateway

Responding to
Rehoming: Protecting Children & Strengthening Adoptive Families

By the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Child Welfare League of America, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Donaldson Adoption Institute, North American Council on Adoptable Children, & Voice for Adoption  



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