Press Release

FIRST-EVER STUDY OF INTERNET’S IMPACT ON ADOPTION SHOWS MAJOR BENEFITS – BUT ALSO INCREASES IN COMMERCIALIZATION AND EXPLOITATION

Media Advisory: Embargoed for Release 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013

CONTACT: Adam Pertman 617-332-8944 apertman@adoptioninstitute.org.

New York, Dec. 12, 2013 – The Donaldson Adoption Institute today released a groundbreaking study of the Internet’s impact on adoption, finding that this transformative technology is being widely used in an array of positive ways – but also is increasing commodification of children and commercialization by for-profit brokers, while enabling greater exploitation of pregnant women considering adoption for their babies and of adults seeking to adopt.

“Untangling the Web II: A Research-Based Roadmap for Reform” is the second major publication from DAI as part of its comprehensive, multi-year initiative examining the Internet’s impact on adoption in order to focus attention on the most critical issues in the field and to reshape related laws, policies and practices. This 83-page report presents the findings, conclusions and recommendations from DAI’s pioneering research on the subject as it relates to adoption as an institution, as a process and, most of all, as a daily reality for tens of millions of people.

“It would be hard to exaggerate how profoundly and rapidly the Internet is changing adoption, which is why accumulating accurate information is vital,” said Adoption Institute President Adam Pertman. “Now law-enforcement officials, policymakers, internet firms and professionals in the field need to use this knowledge to enhance the Internet’s benefits, create necessary protections and go after the abusers.”

The core of DAI’s new research is an extensive survey of over 2,000 adoptive parents, adopted individuals, birth/first parents and adoption professionals nationwide who reported on their adoption-related uses of the Internet, their concerns about it, and their praise for its power as a tool for creating connections and accessing information. Our major findings include:

  • A significant increase in the commercialization of adoption and the reach of for-profit adoption brokers who advertise/market aggressively; in addition, respondents reported greater risks, including misleading promises, fraud, and enticements for women to surrender their babies.
  • The Internet greatly expands the ability of adopted persons to search for – and find – birth relatives; facilitates ongoing contact with adoptive and birth family members; and allows first/birth parents to feel more connected and involved in their children’s lives.
  • A majority of adopted persons and birth parents, and one-third of adoptive family members, sometimes use the Internet or social media to follow each other without the other’s knowledge. The involved parties are cautious and respectful, however, with very few unwelcome intrusions.
  • A significant majority of professionals do not receive training about Internet use in adoption or on how to prepare clients to safely and effectively use this technology.

The Institute’s goal is to assure that the Internet and social media serve ethical practice rather than undermine it. Toward that end, our recommendations include:

  • Policymakers, legal authorities, adoption professionals and major Internet companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft should work together to set legal and ethical standards; delineate problematic behaviors; and create regulations to protect children and all other parties.
  • Leaders in the adoption field should collaborate on an awareness/education campaign about the impact of the Internet – and, perhaps most important, should develop and disseminate best-practice standards, training materials, ongoing educational programs and other resources.
  • Adoption professionals must receive training on a variety of issues relating to the Internet and, as a matter of routine, should educate expectant, prospective, adoptive and birth/first parents. Among the most important lessons that need to be taught is that most, if not all, adoptions may one day be open (no matter how they begin) as a result of the Internet and social media.
  • Given concerns about commercialization and manipulation, systems must be devised to provide information about the differences among the various types of web-based adoption services.

This report augments the Adoption Institute’s initial report on the subject, last year’s “Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption.” In early 2014, we plan to release the next related publication, a Guide to Internet Use in Adoption to advise all parties about how to better utilize the Internet and social media while reducing their risks. The guide is being developed by a team that includes experts on adoption practice, research, Internet use and legal issues.

About The Donaldson Adoption Institute
The Donaldson Adoption Institute is a unique think tank that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Its mission is to provide leadership that improves laws, policies and practices – through sound research, analysis, education and advocacy – to better the lives of everyone touched by adoption. Since its founding in 1996, DAI has been dedicated to a holistic, knowledge-based perspective for addressing the needs of adopted persons, birth/first parents, adoptive parents, and all their extended families. For more information, please go to www.adoptioninstitute.org.