The Web Makes Open Adoption “Inevitable”

“Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption” released by the Evan P. Donaldson Institute on December 13, 2012 is a comprehensive overview of both best practice in adoption and the impact that the Web is having on that practice, both for good and ill. Perhaps the most pertinent finding is that families must be prepared for an open adoption given how easy it is for people to find each other on the web. The report emphasizes that substantial research shows that open adoption is both safe and beneficial for adoptees, adoptive families, and birth families in voluntary adoptions.

The report, researched and written by Jeanne A. Howard, does an excellent job of outlining best practices in adoption, particularly infant domestic adoption. In addition, the report documents the many unethical practices in adoption, including undue pressure on women with unplanned pregnancies to place for adoption. Dr. Howard reports that these practices have always been prevalent, but that the Internet allows these practices to flourish in ways that were not possible in earlier eras. In addition, it can be very difficult to sort out what is legitimate information about adoption when searching on the Internet.

Dr. Howard emphasizes that both pre-adoptive families and families dealing with an unplanned pregnancy who are considering adoption need to work with ethical adoption providers who can guide them through the process and its many legal and emotional complications. In particular, adoption agencies staffed by professional social workers or adoption attorneys who are part of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys are the type of professionals’ families need seek out.

The report spends a considerable amount of time discussing how social media and the Internet has both facilitated adoption reunions in closed adoptions, and allowed adopted children to find their birthparents without the knowledge of their adoptive parents. In addition, abusive birthparents sometimes have contacted their birth children even when the courts forbid such contact. Dr. Howard notes that the reality is all families need to be prepared for an open adoption. Families need to know how to talk to their children about this contact should the children or birthparents seek it out. In particular, the report notes that adoptive parents cannot expect that they can control their children’s activities online so they need to make this a topic of conversation within their family.

Dr. Howard spends several pages reviewing the literature on open adoption, and discusses how the research shows that open adoption is the healthiest option for most families. This is should be reassuring to most families because the report also makes it clear that the Internet has made open adoption inevitable for most families.

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  • Stephen Hinkle

    Ann, I think this report is very accurate.

    Open adoption will now be the norm, not the exception, and that adoptive parents, adopted children, child protective services, the courts, the judges, social services, adoption agencies etc need to accept that there is no longer a 0% chance of the adopted child reconnecting with his/her birth relatives anymore.    Instead, there is a very real chance of this happening before the adopted child’s 18th birthday.    The more tech determined and tech savvy the birth relatives and adopted child are, and the greater their presence on social networks increases the likelihood of this happening.       If all the confidential information enters the kid’s long term memory, don’t count on child protective services or the courts being able to reverse this easily.     As one person said in the report, “it is foolish to assume confidentiality exists in adoption anymore”.

      Adopted children will have to know the honest, accurate and uncensored versions of their life story, and the reasons they were taken away by the time they are 11, if not before.    Parents of adopted children will need to counseled on how to handle the complex emotions involved with birth family connections, and how to avoid adoption breakdowns.   

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