The New York Times reports that the world wide web has “fundamentally changed the adoption process,” throwing many a wrench in an otherwise pretty rigid system of screening and closed records. According to a report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a nonprofit organization, the interwebs present as much harm to adoptive families as they do promise.
The success stories are the ones you know already. Facebook brings some of us closer than we’d like, but for some children, the social media platform has offered a new medium by which to connect to their birth parents. Even if previous laws prevented access to such information:
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.
But where social media and the almighty Google have reunited some loved ones, those avenues have also bypassed some laws put in place for the child’s protection:
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.
Other adoption problems brought straight into your home thanks to your Ethernet connection include financial scams and a severe lack of screening/education — something that web-based adoption services are known for.
But despite the Internet’s two-pronged effect on adoption, one conclusion the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute maintains is that closed adoptions don’t mean much in our age of 24/7 information:
“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.”
Which can also be good or bad come to think of it.