The Internet’s Effect on Adoption

Dawn Davenport


Whenever something bad happened, my grandmother was always fond of saying you’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet. It was her way of maintaining perspective. Such is the case with the Internet. In the world of adoption, the Internet has been a mixed blessing. What is the Internet’s effect on adoption?

The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s study examining the impact of the Internet on adoption  found that the Internet 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.” Yep, like I said, a decidedly mixed blessing.

The Internet Can Be Exploitive

The biggest concern is that the Internet has further commercialized adoption. While adoption has always been a business, the Internet has pushed us further and further in that direction. While prospective adoptive parents can be the victim of this exploitation, my biggest concern is for expectant parents. All expectant parents deserve to have an honest conversation about the realities of adoption, future contact, and counseling about all their options. Aggressive online “recruiters” very often don’t provide the full disclosure or counseling. This is a lousy deal for the birth parents and a heavy legacy for the children they place.

The Internet Can Be a Force for Good

While I fully acknowledge that there are problems with the Internet in adoption, I’m surrounded daily by the unbelievable power of the Internet for good for all members of the adoption triad. From my perspective, its greatest force for good is allowing adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents to find a community of people going through the same experience. It gives them a voice and an audience.

Finding Your Adoption Peeps

Everyone needs community – a place where others “get” you and your experience. I’m a huge believer in in-person support groups, but the reality for many (most?) adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees is that local support groups are simply not available. It’s fair to say that the Internet has made it even harder to sustain in-person support groups, but the online groups have been a life-enriching place for so many of us, and a life-saving place for some. As one adoptive mom said:

I realize it’s popular to point to the vehicle – the internet – as part of the cause of many things negative about adoption. But I can not fathom my own despair, or that of my family, if I hadn’t had the internet to learn about early childhood trauma, attachment disorder and find therapists that I trekked across the country to see, conferences that I traveled to, and now so many “experts” that I know who are parenting traumatized children.

I may be biased since Creating a Family has one of the most active adoption support group on Facebook, but for me the balance of the remarkable power of the Internet tilts heavily in favor of the good. How about you? How have you used the Internet in your adoption journey? Have you seen the bad side of the Internet?

P.S. The Adoption Institutes report laments the lack of training for adoption professionals on the impact of the Internet on adoption and adoptive parenting. Creating a Family has lots of resources to help professionals and parents, including:

Originally published in 2014; updated in 2018.

18/04/2018 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 14 Comments

14 Responses to The Internet’s Effect on Adoption

  1. Avatar Christina says:

    It’s not just the adoption world that has been shaken by the internet. The dating world, many businesses and private people are all being changed for better or worse by the internet and what it has to offer. Sometimes those are not good things, and sometimes they are. I like to focus on the good that the internet brings us. It can outnumber the bad.

    • Christina, I’m glad you pointed out that the Internet has revolutionized all aspects of life. And like you, I think the good outnumbers the bad, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the bad influence if only to limit it’s impact.

  2. Avatar AnonAP says:

    Any time a disruptive technology comes along, there will be pluses and minuses. Take cars, for example. Cars allow us to get places faster, they open up options for trade, increase access for people at farther distances, increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities, negatively affect our air quality, require tearing up of green space to build roadways, etc. The way we use the internet is changing constantly, as are our ways of communicating, marketing, and building communities through it. It certainly helps to catalog all of the ways it is having an impact in adoption today because it helps us think critically about what we want from it. As an AP, I want to think about how the internet may be used to support my fundamental values re: adoption, and how it may undermine them. What are the new or extended scenarios I need to be aware of for my child growing up? How does this “new”, powerful, disruptive tech affect my reading of all of the literature written in decades past? The report helps identify and frame some of those questions, so that’s helpful.

    Whether we think it is on balance a good thing or a bad thing for adoption, (a) the internet isn’t going away, (b) the term “the internet” implies it is some sort of static thing, but it is an inherently dynamic structure and will require dynamic responses to it. Anything definitive said today will probably be outdated next year. Honestly I really don’t think there is one answer to whether it is good or bad. It’s good for some activities, harmful for others, and entirely neutral for another set of activities.

  3. Avatar Von says:

    “the Internet has further commercialized adoption” – it is people who commercialise adoption, often people without ethics who are interested only in profit not in finding good families for children who really need them.

  4. Christian & Sabine, I agree. I think, however, that we have to be so careful that we protect the most vulnerable people from the problems with the Internet.

  5. Avatar Christian & Sabine says:

    With adoption professionals learning more about the effects of using the Internet and bein able to guide their clients properly it will be a powerful source.

  6. Avatar Lisa says:

    Artemis, I am sorry for any thread where you may have been attacked. I don’t recall anything lately on the group but can’t keep up with everything. Every board, forum, group is going to have disagreements from what I have found. I haven’t seen as much here as I have in past in groups or forums I thought for most part things have been nipped quickly. Hopefully you can make friends with those who have been supportive. I won’t say stay if you are in process it can be very difficult emotionally and you may have to take temporary or permanent breaks from things. Foremost go to what helps you and your family and gives you strength. Best wishes to you and your family.

  7. Avatar Elaine Makiej says:

    There are cranky folks on every internet board. I quit FRUA a many years ago for similar reasons. Some people brought up valid points to what I posted but others were mean as snakes. If I don’t like what someone is doing/saying on a board and feel I can’t explain why I feel this way in very sweet manner, I say nothing. And since over the years I have belong to many boards, I have seen that every board has its own flavor. The very same post to one board gets a raves reviews and on the other board, people tell you that you are the worst mother ever. For example, I don’t let my 8th grade daughter do Facebook because kids this age can be so mean. Some mums say “Good Job!” other people act like I am horrible for not letting her be just like all the other teens. I always recommend reading back posts on a board to see if the board that you are comfortable sharing one. Dawn’s is one of the best in my 10 plus years of surfing the Internet on all things adoption. I plan to hang around for a bit.

  8. Avatar Elaine Makiej says:

    Through the magic of the internet, hubby and I are sharing our “been there, done that” with a couple who is adopting from the same country we did ten years ago. They live in another state and using a different agency and without the internet, we would have never connected.

  9. Avatar Artemis says:

    I have to disagree to an extent on this. I have found the internet and blogs a very useful tool in that respect and they have come from the Creating a family network. However when I have personally reached out to the group for support I felt attacked by some members and judged for the decisions I had made. I was very disappointed by this as well as very hurt. It took me a lot of courage to write on the wall and as a prospective adopter I feel quite alone and isolated now. I deleted the post I put on I was so upset and now considering taking myself off the group.

    • Oh Artemis, I’m sorry that was your experience. As you point out, one of the downsides of communicating on the Internet is that we don’t have our body language to soften our words, nor can we read others people’s body language to understand their intent. Hurt feeling can occur. I think they’re fairly rare in our group, but obviously not rare enough for you since you were hurt. I’m truly sorry.

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