By reintroducing the Safe Home Act, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt are trying to crack down on unregulated custody transfers (UCT) or re-homing. The practice puts adopted children at risk for abuse.

By Anna Halkidis
April 23, 2021
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"We must do everything we can to protect adopted children and ensure they are placed in safe, loving homes," says Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), U.S. Senator in Minnesota.

Sen. Klobuchar along with Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) recently reintroduced the Safe Home Act, which aims to protect adopted children from unregulated custody transfers (UCT). Also known as re-homing, UCT occurs when parents transfer custody of their adopted child without going through the child welfare system. This bypasses background checks, home studies, and supervision, potentially leading to devastating consequences for the child.

An image for Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar on a colorful background.
Credit: Getty Images (2). Art: Jillian Sellers.

"Lack of appropriate placement oversight increases the likelihood children may experience neglect of their medical, development, emotional, and/or educational needs; physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; placement in an unsafe environment; exposure to unsafe adults or other children/youth in the home; or experience an isolated lifestyle that could put them at risk for future abuse or exploitation," according to the Quality Improvement Center for Adoption & Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG).

Penelope Hefner, principal attorney at Sodoma Law Union, who has been handling adoption cases including stepparent, other family members, babies, older children, and adults since 2007, emphasizes in re-homing, "people and agencies that are involved [in adoption] are not present and cannot perform their very vital functions of ensuring the safety and well-being of a child."

The Safe Home Act would add UCTs to the federal definition of child abuse and neglect under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This would give state child welfare agencies clear authority to investigate and act in cases of re-homing—that's currently hard to do, reps say, because without a federal definition, it's difficult for agencies to know when and how to step in. "By classifying re-homing as child abuse, child welfare authorities will have an important tool to keep kids safe," explains Sen. Blunt. 

Hefner agrees the legislation can make a difference. "It can be helpful in prevention and in bringing awareness to the issue, although it does not get a lot of traction in the legislature," she says.

Reuters brought attention to the issue of re-homing in a 2013 investigative piece which explains "unwanted children" are often advertised online in social media groups and forums, and then placed elsewhere. It found the majority of the children were from international adoptions and were between 6 and 14 years old. Some of the children, the article reads, did face "severe abuse" after their re-homing.

The Safe Home Act needs to be considered by committee next before potentially being sent to the House or Senate. Companion legislation in the House of Representatives was also introduced by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Don Bacon (R-NE). "This bill prevents the re-homing of adopted children and enforces much needed protection and regulations by classifying it as a form of child abuse," says Sen. Bacon. "This ensures our nation's most vulnerable youth are guaranteed a safe, loving, and stable home."