Nightly News   |  September 10, 2013

The underbelly of the adoption world

NBC’s Kate Snow follows the story of Gary and Lisa Barnes who said that they made “a bad choice” when they turned to an underground internet forum to offer their adopted daughter Anna to strangers.

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

>>> we have more tonight on the topic that received a lot of attention after our initial report aired here last night about a disturbing practice adopting children mostly from overseas whose parents say they can't care for them. some of these parents look on the web for a new home for their kids with strangers. tonight, we continue our partnership with reuters . nbc's kate snow investigates in a seldom-seen world, where nobody is watching out for the kids.

>> reporter: gary and lisa adopted their child. it was harder than they expected.

>> i was a handful, to say the least, i was.

>> reporter: anna had already been through two american homes after leaving a russian orphanage, she had been diagnosed with psychological problems.

>> i am the kind of person who thinks you can fix these things, it wasn't the case.

>> reporter: after two years and expensive counseling, they made a controversial choice, to find her new parents to deal with her behavior.

>> if she is your biological daughter, you have to deal with it somehow, it is different.

>> i have a biological child, and i have anna , and they are different.

>> reporter: they didn't want to call texas authorities because they were afraid they may be deemed unfit parents, unable to adopt again and forced to pay child support . so they turned to an underground internet forum , offering homes to strangers, called rehoming. a woman named nicole reached out and said she could provide anna what she needed. you're a god send , lisa wrote back.

>> she pulled up the picture and said this is basically your new family. this is who you're going to go to.

>> the obvious from the outside looking in question, why did you let her go?

>> we were desperate.

>> -- desperation.

>> reporter: nicole had a troubling history, they found she took in four adoptive kids, in may, she told reuters , it was easy and fast.

>> a week, a couple of hours, days.

>> reporter: according to court filings, nicole easton lost custody of her two biological children, due to neglect. not knowing that, the family signed her anna to her. not knowing the history. they were free to take anna to this trailer in rural illinois.

>> first, i have to sleep with the woman. and that was --

>> in the --

>> yes, in the same bed with her. and that was weird. that was -- and she was not clothed.

>> reporter: the barnes were e-mailing with anna and realized their mistake. within a week, gary brought anna back to texas . we found nicole three weeks ago at a motel, she said she never slept with anna , and despite allegations that her biological children were removed, she denied it. did you ever hurt any children?

>> oh, no.

>> reporter: did you ever lie to any parents who were rehoming?

>> no.

>> reporter: now, they are trying to mend their relationship.

>> being passed around, so many times.

>> if people judge you now because they hear that you have made this choice what do you say?

>> walk a mile in my shoes.

>> the barnes say they notified texas authorities about the eastons, they themselves were never investigated for rehoming anna . the eastons have been investigated multiple times but have never been stopped for taking in kids. reuters and officials tried to find out information to hold someone accountable. the sad truth, no one has authority over this, and brian, too often, too many children fall through the cracks.