It's probably the latter because of two recent suits about constitutionality of foster care in Texas and DFPSs failure to provide quality care for children (particularly those in Permanent Managing Convervatorship of the state). This all follows the case regarding the FLDS raid in which lots and lots of children were initially removed and placed into foster care then later returned after a judge decided the removal was (wrong - I'm not personally sure whether it was illegal, unconstitutional, procedurally incorrect, etc.).
In all honesty - I haven't investigated this idea in depth, mostly because as a foster parent with a dual-license in the state of Texas I can't for the life of me figure out how the state is selling children.
I think the argument has something to do with the federal dollars received by the state through the various federal laws that fund foster care and foster-to-adopt programs. At a core level, states receive funding for foster care in certain circumstances from federally funded programs. They then also receive funding when children who meet certain guidelines (generally special needs, but not limited to special needs) are adopted from foster care. The idea of this funding is to incent states to provide care for children who need it and to enable the state to find permanent homes for all children.
What I can't figure out (without further research) is how that constitues selling the children. Generally when selling something the seller receives funds from the buyer. In this equation the accused seller (the state/CPS/DFPS) is accused of selling something (the children) to the buyer. But who exactly is the buyer? Technically, the one paying the funds is the federal government. Therefore in a traditional transaction the federal government is the buyer.
I'm sure you can see the obvious problem with that equation - the "buyer" is not the one receiving "the goods" (the children). So are the adoptive parents the "buyer"? They are the ones receiving "the goods". If that is the case, then there is no way the adoptive parents are the "buyer" in a traditional sense because aside from nominal expenses related to maybe preparing your home for children (a passed homestudy), which would be highly recommended for any parent, the adoptive parents actually aren't paying for anything.
In fact, it appears to me if anything that the state is the buyer and adoptive parents are the seller. The state is "buying" good parents; good parents are providing a service, good parenting. The amount depends on the level of care required for the child or in better terms whether or not the child(ren) count(s) as special needs. If the child is not a qualified special needs child, there is no many that switches hands unless you count basic court costs and these are paid by the adoptive parent no different than in a private adoption (just, a little lower because you're not paying for the birth parent expenses or private agency fees). If the child is qualified as a special needs child, the adoptive parents (if qualified) are reimbursed for the cost of the adoption by the state who is reimbursed by the federal government. The state may also, depending on the situation, pay the adoptive parents an adoption subsidy, which equates to a monthly amount through the beginning of adulthood, and then may also provide medical care through a form of medicaid (which I assure you is helpful but not all that easy to manage).
Bottom line - unlike in private adoptions where an attorney, an agency, and the birthparents might actually be engaged in receiving money for children from the adoptive parents - that is not the case in adoption from social services. I suppose if you stretch it you could possibly say that the adoptive parents are buying children from the state because they are paying less than they would if they were going through a private adoption, but that's a real stretch.
The only other thing that could potentially be brought into the equation would be to consider the funding received "per child" to pay the department's expenses related to caring for children in foster care through the point of adoption. That would be the cost of all the attorneys (high!) caseworkers, foster care payments, doctors, therapists, transporters, facilities, investigators, etc. This is a major expense. But I can't find out who's getting rich off of it or otherwise benefiting from having more kids in foster care or being adopted through foster care. I haven't found a single case worker who lives a luxurious life either from the ease of his/her occupation or from the exuberant salary they receive. Instead I've found caseworkers who are keeping track of lots of kids in different cases working nights and weekends and on call who are hated about as much as the police (or more) and have to work within a system that often ties their hands. I have found dilapidated buildings. I have found the limited ability to find doctors because the reimbursement amounts for basic medical care through the medicaid program actually cause the doctors to lose money. I've found everyone in the system working for lower pay than they would for their function elsewhere. I haven't found the person profiting from removing a child from their home (except, maybe folks who could potentially gain political power in choosing to remove or not - primarily that would be judges and maybe DAs).
On top of that, I've seen the actual people involved in cases. I've seen children returned to drug addicts who claim they don't want their kids. I've seen dangerous, dangerous people get their kids back. I've seen CPS refuse to take children who by my standards need to be removed due to neglect or imminent danger. I've seen and heard of far more cases where CPS's hands were tied and they were forced to return children to their active abusers, people who haven't worked their services at all, due to some procedure that wasn't exactly followed perfectly. I've seen a lot out here. Recently I saw two siblings separated because CPS refused to get involved in a case that clearly if you knew the details would warrant it - plus the mother wanted to give up the child.
Don't get me wrong - I certainly don't think the system is perfect. I do think that there are situations in which children are probably removed too quickly or not placed with relatives where relatives believe that would be a better solution. I know there are cases of foster parents and even adoptive parents who are just as bad if not worse than some of the birth parents who've lost their rights.
But DFPS is not selling children as if they are going out there to find kids that can be removed just so they can get extra money for them. It's time we face the real facts - there are kids out there who need better parents. There are parents out there who are struggling and need help. There are parents out there who don't want to and don't need to be parenting. There are families out there who can step in and help. There are families out there who can't step in and help. This is an emotionally charged situation.
We need to stop throwing out crazy accusations and find solutions so that no child has to suffer neglect or abuse at the hands of anyone. Period.