U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, announced that they have reintroduced the Safe Home Act to protect adopted children from unregulated custody transfers. This legislation would add UCTs to the federal definition of child abuse and neglect under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. UCTs occur when parents transfer custody of their adopted child outside of the child welfare system – without background checks, home studies, or supervision – increasing the likelihood that the child will experience neglect, exploitation, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Companion legislation in the House was introduced by U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin (R.I.) and Don Bacon (Neb.).
“Rehoming is a traumatizing practice that puts children at higher risk of exploitation and abuse,” said Blunt. “By classifying rehoming as child abuse, child welfare authorities will have an important tool to keep kids safe. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan, bicameral bill.”
“We must do everything we can to protect adopted children and ensure they are placed in safe, loving homes,” said Klobuchar. “When people bypass the legal adoption process, children are placed at risk of neglect and abuse. I’ll keep working to pass this legislation and improve the adoption process for families and children.”
“The Safe Home Act will help put an end to unregulated custody transfers and ensure that the needs and safety of adopted children come first,” said Langevin, co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “By providing child protective services with clear guidance to tackle troubling rehoming practices, we can equip them with the power to hold accountable those who put vulnerable children at risk. I thank my House and Senate colleagues for their collaboration on this legislation that prioritizes the well-being of children.”
“Unregulated custody transfers or ‘rehoming,’ has become a dangerous practice within the child welfare system,” said Bacon. “Adoptions that are unregulated occur without any oversight by the government, and our youth can be exposed to possible neglect, abuse, and exploitation. This bill prevents the rehoming of adopted children and enforces much-needed protection and regulations by classifying it as a form of child abuse. This ensures our nation’s most vulnerable youth are guaranteed a safe, loving, and stable home.”
The Safe Home Act protects a parent’s ability to place their children with a trusted relative when appropriate but ensures they cannot transfer custody to a stranger without the oversight of the child welfare system. The bill defines UCT as the placement of a child:
- With someone other than a child’s adult relative, family friend, or member of the child’s Indian tribe;
- With the intent of severing the existing parent-child relationship;
- Without ensuring the safety and permanency of the placement; and
- Without transferring parental rights and responsibilities under the law.
The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of State, to issue a report to Congress on UCT and recommendations on preventing, identifying, and responding to these cases.
For years, Blunt and Klobuchar have worked to improve the adoption process for Americans:
- Last week, they led 48 colleagues in calling on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to prioritize intercountry adoption and to engage in efforts to resume intercountry adoptions with China, which have been indefinitely paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- In January, they reintroduced the Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act to provide the Secretary of State with authority to establish an Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee to focus on coordinating the development, refinement, and implementation of policy and programs on intercountry adoption.
- In November 2020, during National Adoption Month, they encouraged the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness for National Adoption Month and for the importance of domestic and intercountry adoption.
- In October 2020, they sent a letter urging the Department of State to prioritize policies to promote intercountry adoption and to look specifically at the fee schedule for prospective accrediting entities to ensure they do not impose undue financial burdens on families seeking to adopt internationally.
- In response to the coronavirus pandemic, they sent a letter in April 2020 asking the Department of State to use all available resources to ensure that intercountry adoptions proceed in a safe and timely manner during the coronavirus pandemic and that American families stranded abroad while completing these adoptions return home safely.
- In May 2019, they reintroduced the Supporting Adoptive Families Act to help provide pre-and post-adoption support services, including mental health treatment, to help adoptive families stay strong.
- They previously sent a letter in June 2018 urging the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State to ensure continued dialogue between the Department of State, Congress, and the Adoption Service Providers in efforts to develop and implement policies that advance affordable and sustainable intercountry adoption.
- Blunt and Klobuchar also partnered on the Accuracy for Adoptees Act, which became law in early 2014. This legislation cuts red tape for adoptive families and ensures that corrections made to adoptees’ state vital records would be recognized by the federal government.