Adopting a child is a permanently life-changing experience. When a couple chooses to adopt, they are saying (both legally and socially) that they are devoting the next several decades of their lives towards raising, teaching, and providing for a child. Other than certain biological factors, it is quite literally the same as giving birth.

What happens, though, when a couple finds out that they simply are not capable of providing what the child needs? Imagine the horror: Finding out that, despite wanting children for your entire life, you wake up to realize that you are failing the adopted child in your own home. It is undeniable that you would feel guilty, ashamed, and possibly even angry about the situation.

Fortunately, there are things that couples can do to help in situations like this, but unfortunately, just like giving birth, you are not able to merely say “I can’t do this” and bring the child back to the adoption agency.

However, that is exactly what one recently-shut-down Facebook group was trying to facilitate. While definitely not the first group of its kind to talk about “re-homing” children, this Facebook group was so brazenly out in the open that it caught major media and police attention.

It is known that in order to transfer a child out of an adopted home into a new one, a court order was required. It was not until recently, however, that operating outside those bounds has been criminalized. Wisconsin was the first state to demonize such a practice, and it is spreading across the US like wild-fire.

For good reason, too. A child in an adopted home can already feel like an outsider, with difficulties truly opening up to their new family, but when a child is shuffled between homes repeatedly, they are far more likely to completely shut off emotionally. This can be due to many things, including internalized fears that they themselves are the problem, and that they are responsible for why no one wants to keeps them. Similar to how children in divorces often feel responsible.

No details about any underground “re-homings” from this group have been released yet, but the group had just shy of 250 members at the time it was deleted, and it is expected that they were all interested in either receiving a re-homed child, or re-homing one themselves.