In 2015, Carrie Barker and her husband came across a Facebook post about a boy Second Chance Adoptions called “Jonathan.” They contacted the agency with a brief email, stating only that they were interested, lived on a farm, and could get an updated home study, as they had already obtained one from the county for potential foster-care placements. In return, Barker received detailed, personal information, including three YouTube videos of Jonathan, which made her uncomfortable. Kaiser maintains that this information is shared only with prospective families once a home study has been provided to Second Chance Adoptions, and that the personal information is offered on behalf of the “placing family,” a term used to describe the family putting their child up for adoption. “We never post that information publicly,” Kaiser says.
According to the information provided to the Barkers, Jonathan’s “current family does not have medical insurance that covers mental health, so he has not had a psychological evaluation.” Barker and her husband decided they were not comfortable with this process and never pursued it further.
Many adoption advocates are critical of Second Chance Adoptions and similar agencies, including Maureen Flatley, a longtime child-welfare advocate based in Massachusetts who works with multiple agencies and advocacy groups as well as members of Congress. There is no federally mandated home-study standard, but the Structured Analysis Family Evaluation, the home-study methodology designed by the Consortium for Children, has been mandated by 16 states and voluntarily adopted by agencies in 25 additional states, according to Flatley. States’ home-study requirements vary widely.
Flatley has advised Representative Jim Langevin in his legislative efforts to improve adoption oversight. A Democrat from Rhode Island, Langevin has an interest in adoption and foster-care oversight that stems from childhood. “My parents fostered children when I was school-aged, and that experience led me to be more sensitive to and informed about foster care and adoption issues and the challenges these kids face.” Along with Republican Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, Langevin introduced the Safe Home Act this year to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act by classifying unregulated child transfers as child abuse. It is currently in committee. Langevin and his colleagues are not seeking to completely eliminate secondary adoptions but rather to prevent unregulated ones.
Langevin hopes that his legislation will inspire a uniform process for all secondary adoptions in the country. “While they may still be the consequence of an unsuccessful adoption, secondary adoptions need to go through regulations and safeguards, including background checks, criminal and medical histories, home studies, references, and also post-placement visits by oversights,” he says. (Second Chance Adoptions does not practice unregulated child transfers, and therefore would not be affected by this legislation.)