I hadn't heard of this until both Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Minds featured similar storylines with it. People with "difficult" children offer them up to strangers on the internet with little or no paperwork or legal repercussions. Since both programs tend to base their plots on real world events, I went looking and discovered this article on Reuters about re-homing.
The concept disturbed me a great deal. Every parent goes through points of wanting a break or wishing to be free. It's an understandable emotional reaction to a demanding and unceasing job. Add in the difficulties of special needs children and parents definitely need respite to avoid burnout. But respite is a little different from just handing your child over to strangers.
I should be fair. The children discovered in the Reuter's article were mostly adoptees, often with psychological problems after abuse or institutional care. But the challenges those adoptive families face are similar to those faced by families with autism. The job is harder than anyone can prepare you for.
I also feel I should distinguish between cases like this and those where a families turns their child over to the government for care. Sometimes a family legitimately cannot care for their special needs child any more. In that case, the government is at least an acceptable option. Not ideal and I feel there should be more options, but there are people checking up and background checks at the very least.
In both of the television episodes, the people offering to be the new parents were sex offenders, using this as an opportunity to gain access to children whom no one would be looking for or listening to. I don't know what the real life percentages are and frankly, it frightens and disgusts me too much to look into it deeply.
I get being frustrated and worn out. I get feeling like there's no hope. But there are two factors these parents aren't considering. First, these feelings are often temporary. Even in a horrible situation, progress can happen. Some children may never be "normal" but they can often still improve. Second, no matter how bad the situation is for the parent, how can it possibly compare with handing over a child to abuse?
In the episodes, the people giving up the children tried to pretend their child had been abducted. Presumably so that no one would suspect them or blame them. In the article, the families didn't pretend. They just handed over their kids and walked away.
It strikes right to my core. Kids trapped in private hells, handed over by those who should have protected them.