The internet has changed the adoption landscape in ways that prospective birthparents and adoptive parents could never have imagined. Once upon a time the only way the two parties could have connected would have been through a pre-arranged meeting set up through an intermediary at their adoption agency.
But nowadays, with the rise of online adoption profile listings, social media, blogs and discussion forums, that kind of meeting is potentially just a click away. In order to connect, all prospective birthparents and adoptive parents have to do is go online. Instead of waiting days or weeks to make contact and get a response, today interaction takes mere minutes. And prospective adoptive parents and birthparents can do it it when and where they wish, without help from their agency.
This is one of the storylines in the new groundbreaking study on adoption and the internet called “Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption” by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and its executive direction and Adoption Nation author Adam Pertman. Released on Thursday, it shows how the internet has changed adoption for better and worse for all members of the triad, including prospective birthparents and adoptive parents.
Adoption connections online
In particular, the study contains some great examples about how connecting online has shifted the dynamics for both adoptive parents and birthparents:
“A young woman placing her child for adoption does not feel drawn to any of the couples whose profiles she reviews from the agency assisting her. She goes online and finds a list of potential adoptive parents with approved home studies, including one who has interests and a history that appeal to her. She contacts the couple’s agency, meets them and ultimately places her child with them. This process makes her feel she has much more “say so” in her choice.”
There’s no question that the internet has given prospective adoptive parents and birthparents more control over the networking process. That’s something I know not only in theory, but from my own personal experience.
Fifteen years ago we adopted after our son’s birthmother came across our profile online. And our story isn’t unique. In the nearly 12 years that we’ve been helping potential adoptive parents and birthparents connect, we’ve had dozens of parents from all backgrounds find matches after taking their adoption search to the Internet.
As anyone who has gone through the open adoption process knows, one of the hardest parts is finding a match with prospective birthparents. But the internet gives adoptive parents a leg up in their search. After all, today’s birthparents grew up online. It’s often the first places they go to when they’re looking for answers and parents for their baby.
Finding a match with prospective birthparents
Although most adoption agencies do a great job with outreach, the services and involvement they offer vary from one agency to the next. So when you realize that hopeful parents outnumber prospective birthparents by a wide margin, every little bit you can do to get your profile out there helps. Being online gives you a chance to be more proactive and gain more control over the networking process.
Of course, going online isn’t for everyone. Some potential adoptive parents balk at the thought of sharing private details of their lives in such a public forum. And there are risks to taking a more hands-on approach.
Being online without a filter makes connections easier and more immediate. But it also leaves unsuspecting hopeful parents more vulnerable to fraud. This is particularly true if your situation spans large distances or crosses different states, where adoption laws vary.
In much the same way that the internet is rife with success stories about people finding matches online, it is also brimming with stories about people who got scammed. To avoid disappointment and heartbreak, it’s always a good idea to contact your agency or attorney as soon as you make contact with a prospective birthparent.
We recently got a taste of both sides of the coin: in the morning, we received a message from a same sex couple who adopted after finding a match on our sister site; in the afternoon, we got a second message from a prospective couple who said they were rethinking their networking strategy after falling prey to a scam.
The internet has had both a positive and negative effect on adoption outreach for potential adoptive parents and birthparents. At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember that it’s just a tool, like a newspaper ad, pass along card, or the phone book — no better or worse than the people who use it.