TODAY   |  September 09, 2013

Adoptive parents swap kids via underground network

What happens when American parents adopt internationally and find the challenges of raising an adoptive child overwhelming? Some are turning to underground online chat rooms, where they can advertise their child and send him or her to a new home. NBC’s Kate Snow reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back now at 7:43 with a troubling nbc news investigation in partnership with the investigative unit at roiters. many of us know someone that happily adopted a child from overseas. but what happens when those parents aren't fully prepared for what's ahead. kate snow has more on that story. good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt. here's the thing about international adoption . you get into it and complete the paperwork and you have the approval of a judge. if child you adopt then is legally yours. just like a biological child . they're expected to raise the child as their own. they're not part of the foster care system. they're on their own. if you might remember a few years ago an adoptive mother put her russian child on a plane to moscow with a note pinned to him but what we have uncovered is what happens far more commonly. there's an underground universe online where they can easily find a new home for a child .

>> what happens to nora is known as rehoming but to her it felt like betrayal. as a 13-year-old with polio in a chinese orphanage she was thrilled to be adopted.

>> i was the luckiest girl in the world.

>> her parents grew unhappy with her and decided to rehome her. they found a family in tennessee and took her there on a road trip and never came back.

>> how were you feeling?

>> confused. hurt. felt like they didn't love me.

>> that's a really hard thing for a kid.

>> yeah.

>> reporter: over 18 months, megan examined an under ground universe of chat room where is desperate adoptive parents post notes advertising available kids.

>> these websites are a place where parents can go to unload their unwanted adopted children and people can go to solicit unwanted children.

>> reporter: on one site alone they captured 5,000 messages.

>> she has a sweet disposition.

he needs a chance to start over: we need someone willing to take her.

>> reporter: that's one child advertised every week. once someone is interested they hand off the child with little or no paperwork.

>> sometimes that happens at a home. other times it's at a motel parking lot or truck stop .

>> a truck stop ?

>> yeah, simply a transaction between one family and another.

>> after learning about what they discovered on that one yahoo chatroom, i canthey shut it down within an hour and other similar sites. facebook has not yet taken action.