Money & Business

How the Internet Turned Adoptions Upside Down

By / Nov 16, 2012 (Hemera/Thinkstock)

With social media and Craigslist helping break down barriers, the field of adoption is changing significantly. But associations could play a role in informing both sides of the risk.

The measured process of the adoption field is feeling the effects of the fast-paced online world.

In an article on Yahoo’s Shine site, Piper Weiss shows how some adoptive parents have managed to successfully find a match by using social media and sites such as Craigslist to promote themselves.

The Internet has changed everything about adoption. We will never go back to what it used to be.

In a key anecdote, she cites how Minnesota-based adoptive parents Tracey and Dan Citron, after years of struggling to find a match through traditional means, were finally able to find one with a Craigslist ad that reached 24-year-old Tammy Nelson.

“Tracey and Dan’s Craigslist ad was the second thing that came up in the search,” Nelson told Yahoo. “I was able to call them up and talk to them in secret without needing outside sources or having to drive anywhere.”

To put it simply, this is very disruptive for the field of adoption. “The Internet has changed everything about adoption. We will never go back to what it used to be,” Denise Bierly, president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA), told Weiss.

More details on how the process works:

That stats of online adoption: According to a small-scale 2012 study [PDF] by Families for Private Adoption, 40 percent of successful private adoptions have online roots, with most happening through paid sites such as ParentProfiles.com. While only 5.7 percent took place through social networking sites such as Facebook, Yahoo’s Weiss reports that many prospective adoptive parents are getting recommendations to use social media in their campaigns.

The legal restrictions: Adoption is still a very complicated process due to significant differences in state laws. Only some states — including Connecticut, Illinois, and Kansas — allow advertising directly to expectant mothers. In other states, like Florida, you must go through agents or attorneys to place such ads. And adopting from out of state can add to the complication. Adoption is also an expensive endeavor — with costs for domestic newborn adoptions ranging from $20,000 to $40,000, according to the Adoption Guide.

The benefits of the approach: According to Bierly, the benefit on both sides is empowerment. “One of the pros [of internet-based adoption ads] is that it really empowers the expectant mother,” she explains. “Without the filter of an agency, she can look at profiles of hundreds of families, rather than say five.” And for prospective parents, using a site like Craigslist means that the message may get a wider reach than it would through other platforms, such as print advertising.

The downsides: There is a much higher danger of scams, due to that lack of filters. But even if that’s not the case, there may be issues due to the simple informality of the process. “Even if all parties are acting in good faith, there are still risks,” Bierly explains. “When people are connecting directly, there is the potential that no one has legal representation.”

If the industry your group represents is facing fundamental changes to the way things are done, how do you handle it? And if you were running these associations, how would you best inform potential adoptive parents and birth mothers about the dangers and pitfalls they could face with such an approach?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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