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Internet Use in Adoptions Cuts 2 Ways
By: Editor | 13-12-2012
Total Views:1078

The Internet has fundamentally changed the adoption process. It has allowed adoptees and their birth parents to reunite, and adopting parents can find a range of support from families around the world struggling with similar problems. But even as the Web has helped open up the adoption process, it has brought risks. It has led to an increase in fraudulent adoption agencies, which often turn out to be little more than Web sites, and it has allowed abusive parents whose children have been removed to find them, sometimes with tragic consequences.

This shifting landscape is the focus of a report to be released on Thursday by the , a nonprofit organization that works to change adoption policy and practice. The report, part of a three-year research project, found that the Internet could have both positive and negative effects on the adoption process and the millions of people involved. As a positive example, the report tells of a woman who reunited with her birth mother through Facebook after having been given up for adoption in the 1940s.

In another case, a young mother who wanted to give her child up for adoption used the Web to find a family she felt more comfortable with than the couples she had found through an adoption agency. Social media sites have helped bypass a system that has made it difficult for adoptees and birth parents to connect: state laws that closed birth records to protect the identities of birth mothers. Records were also closed because many families did not want children to know they were adopted.

The Donaldson Institute has long pushed for states to open adoption records to adoptees, which could not only help them find family members, but could also prove useful for medical reasons. “Having closed-records statutes in place serves no purpose today, where almost anything or anyone can find each other on the Web,” said Adam Pertman, the executive director of the institute.

“I can find my third-grade classmate on the Web these days.” The report found that the widespread use of the Web had circumvented legal and procedural protections. Traditional adoption agencies have long offered education, counseling and the ability to screen prospective parents, but many of the Web-based adoption services not only do not offer these services, but also may not even be legitimate. One online adoption agency cheated prospective parents out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by promising to arrange adoptions in Kazakhstan. Parents sharing information discovered the fraud, and the director was convicted.

The report found other dangers. Without their families’ knowledge, young adopted children have used Facebook and other sites to find and contact their birth parents. Also, birth parents have contacted young children. In one case, a 13-year-old was contacted by one of her birth parents over the Internet, and the episode caught the adoptive family unprepared and caused friction, the report said. In another case, an 11-year-old was contacted by her birth father, who had abused her and who had been ordered by a court to sever all contact with the girl. The report said the child had to undergo therapy after the contact.

Linda Spears, the vice president for policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America, said that she had not seen the report, but that “it tracks with conversations that we have had with people around the country.” “The Internet can be a wonderful tool for reconnecting people,” she added. “But since anyone can throw up a Web site and call themselves an adoption agency, prospective parents can be taken advantage of, and adopted children can be vulnerable to an abusive former parent trying to find them. People need to be careful.”

 (courtesy:nytimes)

 


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