Underground trading. Secret online message boards. Clandestine deals. Sounds more like a best-selling book series than a growing adoption trend in the United States.
But according to a 2013 Reuters report titled The Child Exchange: Inside America’s Underground Market for Adopted Children, an eight-part investigative series delving into the dark side of adoption cases, the truth is stranger and oftentimes more dangerous than fiction. Especially where international adoption is concerned.
This is where Regent University School of Law comes in. During the summer of 2014, Rebecca Lawrence ’14 (Law) interned with the Virginia Commission on Youth and was charged with the task of researching adoption cases in Virginia, particularly those considered to fall under the term “re-homing.”
The phenomenon involves the extraction of adopted children from the home of one family and given to another without following legal adoptive procedures.
“There were times when it worked out just fine, but the whole point of the [Reuters] report was that there was one specific woman who was seeking these children out,” said Lawrence. “She had already been stripped of her rights as a parent once before and she was regularly living with sex offenders and pedophiles.”
That’s not all. Children who have been “re-homed” without proper legal procedure are also at risk to be swept into several dangers, including human trafficking.
The Commission on Youth adopted Lawrence’s recommendations based off her report on the “Unlawful Adoption of a Child” study. The study will aid in the investigation of these laws and help legislators see the need for protecting these children.
“I’ll likely never see a child that was necessarily aided by this, but knowing that there are kids who will never have to is a very rewarding feeling,” said Lawrence.
And though this facet of practice was not a part of law she originally set out to develop her skills in, for Lawrence, issues concerning adoption are “near and dear” to her heart, coming from a family whose mother was adopted, and having a 10-year-old daughter of her own.
“No matter how frustrated I get as a mother it would never be an option for me to say, ‘you know what? This is too hard, let me just give you up,” said Lawrence. “And I feel like that’s so unfair to see that happen to these adopted kids.”
As a result of her time in law school and the passion that weaves in and out of her life as a result, her priorities lie where she’s learned to place them: God first, spouse and family second, then the rule of law.
“As long as we do that we’ll continue to glorify God,” said Lawrence. “And, it’s true. He’ll bless our efforts and our endeavors.”
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