The Internet And Adoption Essay, Research Paper
In the emotion-charged realm of adoption, the Internet has been a blessing and a curse. Thanks to online listings – complete with photographs and profiles – thousands of parents have adopted children they otherwise might never have found. In the wrong hands, however, the Internet is a near-perfect tool for preying on vulnerable couples yearning for the child of their dreams.
“There’s bad and good in everything, even on the Internet,” said Mary Teinsmeyer of Indianapolis, IN proud mother of two boys and a girl found on an adoption Web site. “You just have to make sure of who you’re dealing with.”
The seamy side of Internet adoption has been spotlighted in the past few months as couples from Britain and California battle for custody of twins they found through the same Internet service. The Britons paid $12,000 to the San Diego-based broker; the Americans $6,000.
Though the case has roused trans-Atlantic outrage, it is not an isolated example.
Harlan Tenenbaum, director of a Delaware adoption agency and chairman of the American Bar Association’s adoption committee, said increasing numbers of private, for-profit brokers use the Internet to drum up business. A favorite venue, he said, are chat lines on which couples discuss their interest in adopting.
“One couple was on line for 37 minutes and received six solicitations,” Tenenbaum said. “It’s not always a bidding war, but it lends itself to bidding.”
Allan Hazlett of Topeka, Kan., president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said brokers also e-mail solicitations to couples who post information about themselves in hopes of attracting interest from birth mothers contemplating adoption.
“These facilitators are unregulated, unlicensed, essentially uncontrollable,” Hazlett said. “They’ll send an e-mail, or call a couple, saying, `I can get you a birth mother in a week or two.’
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. But that’s what they’re counting on: people so anxious to adopt, they’ll jump at something like that.
Manipulative adoption brokers are nothing new; baby-selling schemes flourished in the past without high-tech help. But the Internet has spread the reach of the greedy and complicated the task of regulators.
“The Internet puts some distance between the unscrupulous individual and the people who respond, said Cindy Freidmutter, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York. “When you meet people face-to-face in your community, it’s harder to get away with this kind of stuff than when you meet them on the Internet.
Enforcement is greatly complicated by the hodgepodge of adoption laws.
“There’s no consistency among any of the 50 states, Hazlett said. “It’s like a patchwork quilt.
The largest Internet adoption site is run by the National Adoption Center in Philadelphia, which has posted photographs of children since 1995.
Its site features “special needs children in foster care – a majority of them are black or Hispanic, most are school-age, many have emotional or physical problems.
Special needs children are usually harder to place than healthy infants; many of the reported Internet abuses occur because of a couple’s eagerness to adopt a baby rather than an older child.
“It’s fair to say there are 30 to 40 couples looking for each healthy newborn,” Hazlett said. “That creates tremendous competition, and makes couples more willing to pay even if the costs rise.
Gloria Hochman, the National Adoption Center spokeswoman, urged couples to be wary of any Internet offer to provide a newborn baby. She said any reputable Web site should include a street address and phone number, and be operated by a licensed agency.
Selling a baby is illegal, but brokers and adoption lawyers are allowed to charge for services. Costs for many adoptions range from $10,000 to $20,000, Hochman said.
“The Internet is not the culprit,” she said. “Bidding wars have existed before. But the Internet adds a dimension to it – it can reach a lot of people very quickly.
That same speed and scope have enabled the Internet to revolutionize adoption in good ways. Since 1995, more than 300 children have been adopted after their photographs appeared on the National Adoption Center’s Web site, Faces of Adoption Web.
Trennia Tennant and her husband, Dale, used the site to adopt their daughter, Zolly, in less than a month in 1999. Two sisters, Sharon and Sharee, were adopted smoothly last year, even though they lived in California.
“The Internet is the most fabulous thing out there, Mrs. Tennant said. “You don’t have to wait six months or two years.
Zolly, who is 3, has cerebral palsy and is mildly retarded, but Tennant said the girl – “our little sunshine” – is progressing well with speech and walking.
With a $2.5 million federal grant, Faces of Adoption will soon more than double to include 6,500 children, Hochman said.
“That’s the glorious opportunity of the Internet, when it’s used responsibly,” she said. “When it’s not, the consequences can be tragic.”