Girl, given up by adoptive parents, made to dig own grave in abusive new home
Nora Gateley, now 26, was given up at birth in China to parents in Florida who ‘rehomed’ her to an abusive family in Trenton, Tenn., after growing tired of her. Rehoming is the illegal practice of transferring unwanted adopted kids to new homes.
BY Doyle Murphy
She thought she landed in a “dream.” The reality was a nightmare.
Nora Gateley, now 26, says she was forced to dig her own grave and scrub the floor with a toothbrush after her adoptive parents shipped her to a woman they’d met online, NBC News reported as part of joint investigation with Reuters.
‘“Get out and go dig your own grave,’” Gateley says her new mom told her. “‘I don’t care if you die. Nobody will find you. You were not even here in the first place.’”
Gateley was 14 when she went to live with Tom and Debra Schmitz in Tennessee. Her biological parents abandoned her at birth in China, and she spent her first 12 years racked with polio in an orphanage.
She thought she was the “luckiest girl in the world” when an American couple took her home with them to the Florida Keys.
Life in the United State was at first “awesome, living a dream,” but darkened rapidly, Gateley said.
The Florida parents soon grew tired of their new daughter and accused her of hitting one of their other children.
They decided to unload the teen on the Schmitz family.
The process of swapping unwanted kids from international adoptions gone bad is called “rehoming.”
Adoptive parents experiencing remorse can tap into online networks where they can ship their kids to another family without the government looking over their shoulders.
Guardians sometimes sign over legal authority, or power of attorney, to the new parents. Authorities say interstate transfers are illegal, but violators are rarely caught or punished.
The system leaves kids like Gateley vulnerable.
She was one of at least nine adopted and rehomed kids when she arrived at the Schmitzes’ isolated farmhouse in Trenton, Tenn. The couple would eventually collect a total of 17 of the children.