NECN) -- Most stories of adoption are happy ones. Parents willing to open their hearts to a child who needs a family. But adoption is also a business-- one that isn't highly regulated.
States have different laws-- and when it comes to international adoption the rules vary by country. That lack of oversight can prove to be a disaster for some children who fall through the cracks.
Tarikuwa Lemma's journey started in her home country of Ethiopia. When her mother died, Tarikuwa says her widowed father struggled financially to care for her and her siblings. It made him vulnerable to brokers who profit when they provide children to adoption agencies. Tarikuwa's father agreed to send her and two of her sisters to America.
What none of them understood was he had given them up for adoption.
They were adopted by a family in Virginia who thought they were saving orphaned children.
Tarikuwa was 13 when she came to America. Old enough to understand she had been betrayed by an adoption system that can be corrupt, especially in poor countries like Ethiopia. Adoption advocates say fault lies with unscrupulous brokers and agencies that often look the other way.
Maureen Flatley has been an adoption advocate for more than 20 years. She says while stories like this represent a small number of adoptions, it is a growing problem.
"Growing in part because we have been less discriminating about which countries we do business with," said Flatley.
Confused and angry, Tarikuwa rejected her adoptive parents and their attempts to create a new family. While her younger sisters finally acclimated, Tarikuwa did not. After 8 months of struggling her adoptive parents sent her to Iowa to visit her adoptive grandmother. Two weeks later they told her not to come back.
In the adoption world it is called re-homing. Giving an adopted child to someone else. A recent investigation by Reuters and NBC shed light on what has largely been an underground practice. In some cases, children are offered up on the internet to complete strangers.
Tarikuwa spent five years with her adoptive grandmother. Life was better, but she was never really happy. In her senior year of high school she left and went out on her own.
Eventually, she landed in Maine. She now lives with a family she chose.