NEW YORK – Megan Twohey wins the October Sidney Award for her five-part series exposing a subculture where parents go online to give their adopted children away to strangers with no oversight from social workers or the courts. Children may find themselves bounced from one unfit home to another or even handed over to sex offenders.
“Twohey spent 18 months of painstaking investigative work to expose a dark side of the international adoption boom,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “Unqualified adoptive parents are adopting and discarding vulnerable children, and it’s all perfectly legal.”
Americans have adopted over a quarter of a million children from overseas since the 1990s. While these arrangements can enrich the lives of both adoptive parents and children, the lucrative international baby trade has given rise to weakly regulated international adoption systems plagued by fraud. Some international adoptees suffer from undisclosed physical and emotional problems that their adoptive parents are ill-equipped to handle. Some poorly-screened adoptive parents decide they’re tired of caring for their children.
Twohey discovered a private “rehoming” subculture, modelled on the “rehoming” groups that reassign unwanted pets. She and her Thompson Reuters colleagues constructed a massive database of over 5000 postings from a single Yahoo rehoming group over a five-year period, during which time a child was put up for rehoming about once a week on average.
"How would you give me up when you brought me to be yours?" asked Quita of the adoptive parents who had dispatched her to live with a woman who had lost custody of her biological children and who was suspected in the drowning death of another child in her care. The woman “rehomed” at least six children. Once, the woman teamed up with her roommate, a convicted child pornographer, to pick up a little boy in a parking lot.
Megan Twohey is an investigative reporter for Reuters based in New York. Before joining Reuters early last year, she was an award-winning investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune. She has also reported for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Charlotte Observer, among other publications.
The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good. Judges are Rose Arce, Hendrik Hertzberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Harold Meyerson, Susan Meiselas and Lindsay Beyerstein. The Sidney Award is given monthly to acknowledge an outstanding piece of socially conscious journalism.