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.