• February 2013
  • Vol. 14, No. 1

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Impact of the Internet on Adoption

Noting a lack of scholarly literature focused on the Internet's impact on adoption, the Donaldson Institute for Adoption set out on a multiyear study of the subject. The results of the study, in addition to recommendations for practice and policy changes, were released in the December 2012 report Untangling the Web: The Internet's Transformative Impact on Adoption.

The primary goal of the study was to start a national discussion on the impact of digital media on adoption and how to regulate online adoption services to ensure they meet ethical and legal standards. Information for the study was gathered using multiple tactics, including interviews and confidential email addresses where participants could send responses.

Highlights from key findings include the following:

  • The Internet has offered positive changes in adoption, including increased access to support for adoptive families and better information sharing.
  • A growing number of adopted children are finding their birth relatives online but not always with their adoptive parents' knowledge or approval.
  • The relative ease of finding birth family members online may signal the end of "closed" adoptions and an increase in relationships between birth families and adoptive families.

While there is a rising number of information sites that expedite the adoption of waiting children, there remain several unregulated websites that raise serious ethical and legal concerns. Some of the recommended policy and practice changes include the following:

  • Child welfare agencies, organizations, and professionals involved with foster care and adoption should develop best practices and standards. The Adoption Institute plans to hold a meeting on the topic in 2013.
  • More education and training opportunities should be made available to help adoption professionals gain a better understanding of technology and the changing impact of technology on adoption.
  • Adoption professionals and social workers should advise and prepare adoptive families for the reality that "closed" adoptions may be coming to an end and that their adoption will be "open" to some extent.
  • Policymakers and other stakeholders should conduct hearings about whether changes in the law are necessary to ensure those affected by adoption are protected from unscrupulous practices online, such as fraud or exploitation.

The full report is available on the Donaldson Institute for Adoption's website:

http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/research/2012_12_UntanglingtheWeb.php

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