The Internet Has Colossally Changed The Adoption Experience As We Know It

shutterstock_94708885If you needed even more proof that the Internet does as much good as it does bad, adoption may be the latest two-sided coin to add to your collection of dinner party topics.

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.

(photo: pockygallery / Shutterstock)

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  • Jenna

    I was adopted and found my birth mother using the internet before I was suppose to be able to. There was no abuse or other craziness in our situation so other than my adoptive parents being completely confused as to how I’d accomplished such a feat (a few wearches go a long way) it didn’t present any problems. That was 10+ years ago, I’m sure it’s even easier now.

    • alice

      out of curiosity: how did you find her? I guess I wouldn’t know where to start searching.

    • Stephen Hinkle

      It may be as simple as someone remembering their birth parents name (some adoptees do remember them from when they were little), typing it into Facebook, Google+, MySpace, et al and recognizing their annual letterbox picture, send them a friend request, and when it is accepted, exchanging numbers and addresses. Also, you could use a search engine, find them and e-mail them and then exchange phone numbers and addresses. Internet communication is not censored (and most of the sites are privately owned), so child protective services would not be able to stop contact information being exchanged.

      Sometimes, birth parents find adopted children who have their names changed by searching for a known childhood friend of the child, and looking in their friends list and recognizing their picture and then repeat the process above.

      The reality is that attempting to cutting off contact till age 18 or 21 by sealing birth certificates, and imposing new identities can be circumvented by the powerful search capabilities of search engines, and social networking sites. To be safe, adopted children will need to know the honest and accurate version of their life story, and the circumstances of the adoption by the time they reach age 11, if not sooner. If a relative abused them or neglected them, the child will need to understand this as well, so they know which relatives are safe to contact and which are not. The internet has made open adoptions inevitable and closed adoption will become a thing of the past.

  • Josephine

    I was 15 when my dad contacted me through facebook. It was rough for me to sort out everything and I started sneaking behind my guardians backs in order to talk to him and eventually to meet him when I was 16. They always told me that he was not a good person and about what he did to my mom and when it finally came out that I had met him they freaked out on me and understandably so. It caused a big rift in our relationship, all because he decided he didnt want to wait 3 more years to contact me. And in the end, dad just wanted money because thats all heroin addicts ever want.

  • Andrea

    I can see how the contacting thing might be an issue. I guess there should be rules regarding social media in a closed adoption. HOWEVER..eventually, I would guess that 99% of adoptees and parents that put their children up for adoption do want to meet each other. The internet would be wonderful for that. I would be there is already a site that connects people.

    As far as the adoption process itself, I always felt that there was WAY WAY WAY too much red tape, money, and bureaucracy involved. I hope the internet makes things easier and more affordable; while still having safe guards in place. I am under the impression that unless you are a heterosexual, white, married, upper class couple with a stay at home mom, you might as well forget about adopting. That is not right.

  • Janet Dubac

    I have heard a lot of happy news and stories of children finding their biological parents with the help of the internet. I never thought there was a negative side to it.

    Adoption is already a sensitive and emotional matter by itself, I could not imagine how some people can afford to make it even more difficult than it already is. My heart breaks for the children whose lives are never the same because of something they find out online.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    True facts. My aunt had a baby who was placed for adoption several decades ago, and we knew her name but had not yet had contact (not even my aunt). I managed to find her just goofing off on Facebook. Of course I didn’t try to contact her since my aunt hadn’t yet, but it would be very, very easy for extended relatives to butt in before she had a chance to sort things out. Facebook has a lot of downsides.