The first-ever examination of the Internet’s impact on adoption, released today, concludes that social media and other elements of this modern technology are having “transformative” effects – positive and negative – on adoption policy, practice and millions of people’s lives, while raising serious legal, ethical and procedural concerns that have yet to be addressed.

“Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption” is the initial publication of a multiyear research project on the subject by the Donaldson Adoption Institute. Its key findings include:

  • There is a growing “commodification” of adoption on the web, replete with dubious practices, and a shift away from the perspective that its primary purpose is to find families for children.
  • Finding birth relatives is becoming increasingly easy and commonplace, with significant institutional and personal implications, including the likely end of the era of “closed” adoption.
  • A growing number of young adoptees are forming relationships with birth relatives, sometimes without their adoptive parents’ knowledge and usually without guidance or preparation.
  • A rising number of websites offer useful, positive resources and expedite the adoption of children and youth who need families, notably including those with special needs. ...

Among the recommendations in the Institute’s 70-page report are:

  • Professionals who deal with expectant and pre-adoptive parents should get training reflecting the certainty that many, if not most of their clients. will be able to find each other at some point, and should educate them about the benefits of openness and the realities of such relationships.

  • Practitioners should get additional training and resources to enable them to better assist the growing number of adopted individuals and others who seek help with search and reunion.

  • Policy and law-enforcement officials should routinely review online adoption-related sites/activity for fraud, exploitation or other illegal/unethical practices, and should take action as warranted.

  • Laws that impede the parties to adoption from gaining significant information, including “closed records” statutes, should be repealed since the Internet obviates their main contemporary rationale (i.e., preventing the affected parties from learning about and finding each other).


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