As it evolves and continues to grow, the Internet influences much of our lives; dictating how individuals act, how businesses operate, how we obtain information and how we communicate with one another, to name just a few ways. Given that, it should come as no surprise that the Internet has had a major impact on the adoption process.
Much of the Internet’s impact has been positive, such as in helping raise awareness for adoption and providing couples with access to critical educational and support resources. As a result, today’s adoptive couples are armed with greater access to information and can more easily connect with professionals or peers for counseling and networking.
Unfortunately, not all of the changes to the adoption landscape resulting from the Internet are positive. In many instances, the eagerness of adoptive couples to be paired with a child has led to exploitation of the adoption triad—the birthmother, adoptive family, and adopted child—as unregulated websites make claims and utilize practices that raise serious ethical and legal concerns, as reported in a comprehensive study released today by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
A nonprofit organization devoted to improving adoption policy and practice, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has provided invaluable information on the Internet’s impact on adoption in its report—Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption. The organization is hopeful that the report will serve as a springboard for a far-reaching discussion regarding the need for regulation of Internet-based adoption services to assure that they are legal and ethical, and that the needs of everyone, especially children, are protected.
According to the Adoption Institute’s report, Internet-based tools “are transforming adoption practices, challenging laws and policies, offering unprecedented opportunities and resources, and raising critical ethical, legal, and procedural issues.” The report goes on to warn that “the Internet is accelerating a ‘commodification’ of adoption, with would be adoptive parents being viewed as commercial clients and less emphasis placed on the idea that adoption’s primary purpose is finding families for children.” I, of course, share these concerns.
To better protect the adoption triad, especially the children, a number of changes must be made. These include: creating stricter regulations for adoption-related websites, improving enforcement against regulation violators, establishing best practices related to the role of the Internet in the adoption process, and increasing the number of websites that help find families for children and provide information and education.
As a child services professional for more than 30 years, I applaud the Adoption Institute for its thorough undertaking on this topic and highly recommend it to anyone concerned about the welfare of children. While the Internet of tomorrow may look drastically different than it does today, it will certainly remain a tool for the adoption community to utilize in its efforts to match children with loving and nurturing families. As such, better to begin implementing the necessary changes today in hopes of securing a safer and more efficient process tomorrow.