Days later, they had no idea what had become of her. "It turned into a nightmare." The teenager had been tossed into America's underground market for adopted children, a loose Internet network where desperate parents seek new homes for kids they regret adopting.When she arrived in the United States, Quita says, she "was happy … Like Quita, now 21, these children are often the casualties of international adoptions gone sour.Through Yahoo and Facebook groups, parents and others advertise the unwanted children and then pass them to strangers with little or no government scrutiny, sometimes illegally, a Reuters investigation has found. Often, the children are treated as chattel, and the needs of parents are put ahead of the welfare of the orphans they brought to America.

MOTIVATED MOM: In her time seeking children on the Internet, Nicole Eason has referred to herself as Big Momma and Momma Bear.

Her term for informal custody transfers is "non-legalized adoption," and she defines the phrase to mean: "Hey, can I have your baby?

The company subsequently took down five other groups that Reuters brought to its attention.

A similar forum on Facebook, Way Stations of Love, remains active.

In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl.

"People that are around me think I am awesome with kids," Eason wrote. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove six hours from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois.

Another re-homed child, a Russian girl, recounted how a boy in one house urinated on her after the two had sex; she was 13 at the time and was re-homed three times in six months.

"This is a group of children who are not being raised by biological parents, who have been relocated from a foreign country" and who sometimes don't even speak English, says Michael Seto, an expert on the sexual abuse of children at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group in Canada.

• 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.