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Senators consider ways to address issue of illegal adoptions

Reports of Americans giving away children adopted from overseas on the Internet is so alarming that Floridians should be alerted, the new assistant secretary of the Department of Children and Families told a Senate committee Tuesday.

Stephen Pennypacker was discussing an investigation by Reuters, which found that Americans who couldn't handle children they adopted from Liberia, Russia, China and  other countries placed ads on websites advertising kids they wanted to give away. The children were often subject to horrible treatment in these new homes, and some were "rehomed" several times.

Pennypacker told senators on the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee that word needs to get out to anyone who might be considering abandoning a child to contact a licensed adoption agency.

"I firmly believe any child can be adopted," he said.

Pennypacker added there have been cases in Florida where parents who adopted kids who were given away on the Internet were also unable to handle them and wound up going to state social service agencies for help.

The current penalty for unlawful adoptions is a second degree misdeamor. "One thing we can do is make it a third degree penalty," Pennypacker told the panel, which agreed to consider ways to address the issue in Florida.