Essentially, what's going on is adoption, Craigslist-style. People post adoption listings online, strangers choose the children. The process bypasses any meaningful regulatory system. No one's really checking on the bona fides of the new parents nor checking in on the kids after they're placed. It's a quiet horror story. One of the children profiled is a young girl named Quita, who is legitimately adopted by a woman named Melissa who later uses the internet to pass her off to the Eason family.
The Easons "seemed wonderful." Had she vetted them more closely, she might have discovered what Reuters would learn:
• Child welfare authorities had taken away both of Nicole Eason's biological children years earlier. After a sheriff's deputy helped remove the Easons' second child, a newborn baby boy, the deputy wrote in his report that the "parents have severe psychiatric problems as well with violent tendencies."
• The Easons each had been accused by children they were babysitting of sexual abuse, police reports show. They say they did nothing wrong, and neither was charged.
• The only official document attesting to their parenting skills – one purportedly drafted by a social worker who had inspected the Easons' home – was fake, created by the Easons themselves.
Reuters found that much of this informal adoption happens on Yahoo. Following the Reuters report, Yahoo shut down those forums. However, online, unregulated adoption also exists on Facebook, and Facebook has refused to intervene. Here's the relatively jaw-dropping quote from their spokesperson: "...the Internet is a reflection of society, and people are using it for all kinds of communications and to tackle all sorts of problems, including very complicated issues such as this one."
Facebook's decisions about what to censor and what to let lie are often head-scratchers. Nude art's been taken down. Breast-feeding photos are OK, but only if the child is actively nursing. Usually, the inherent arbitrariness inherent in these decisions is silly and frustrating but not deeply consequential. Here, the difference is that actual human misery seems to be furthered by Facebook's permissiveness.