Adoption on the Internet
The Daily Dot had a post this week about adoption via the Internet instead of an agency. I clicked over to read it because the title mentioned crowdsourcing, and I assumed they were writing about adoption fundraisers a la Kickstarter on the Internet. That’s in there too, but it’s more about expectant parents and potential adoptive parents connecting online. The Daily Dot writes,
Thanks to the Internet, a growing number of prospective parents are connecting with birth mothers directly—outside of traditional adoption agencies. And online resources like social media are helping to push the complex web of relationships between birth parents, adoptive parents, and the kids themselves into something more open and accommodating than in generations past.
What I thought was interesting is that the Internet is the tool for removing the gatekeeper whose purpose is to keep adoption ethical (and yes, I’m aware that there are plenty of agency adoptions that don’t follow ethical guidelines) AND it’s the tool for making it easier for all members of the triad to remain connected. One tool used in two completely different ways: to drive people out and to keep people close.
The Internet is the key in starting the relationship online and continuing it online. It can help bring first parents back in contact with children they delivered. It can help adoptive parents and birth parents stay in touch via social media on a day-by-day basis. It can help all members of the triad find others in their group in order to gain support. But this article is about the idea that amid all that connection, the Internet can also nudge out the middleman, the agency.
The reality is that most agencies remove themselves after adoption. Just as the RE steps back soon after you get pregnant, most agencies step back soon after the adoption is finalized. There commonly isn’t on-going support such as continuous workshops on maintaining openness within adoption or coping mechanisms when parenting problems unique to adoption crop up, it does call into question whether agencies are necessary anymore if one can do it on their own. Do agencies need to step up their on-going support for all members of the triad in order to stay relevant? People are still going to go to REs because we can’t perform our own embryo transfers. But will people keep using adoption agencies if expectant parents and potential adoptive parents can connect online?
This, of course, brings out the distinction between “can” and “should.” Should we do away with ethical agencies? Of course not. All parties in adoption benefit from ethical agencies. But it does open up a conversation: beyond keeping the adoption ethical, what purpose does an agency serve? Can it do more in order to keep providing benefits not found by going about adoption alone? Do agencies need to be more inclusive as the Internet levels the playing field, making it easier for single parents-to-be or those in a same-sex relationship to adopt? Do agencies need to lower their administrative costs? As is, domestic adoption of a newborn is prohibitively expensive, putting it out-of-reach for those who may have enough money to raise a child, but can’t come up with the five-figure agency fees.
Have agencies themselves set up a system where they will be rejected once they’re no longer needed? Have they made the process so difficult and expensive that people will forgo the good points of an agency in order to not experience the bad? I keep thinking about how little I even knew to ask before I started parenting. New questions crop up all the time. A good example would be breastfeeding. Most people take a breastfeeding class before they start parenting. But we still need lactation consultants to guide us on the other side, when we’re actually ensconced in the act of breastfeeding. Why don’t adoption agencies use this same model?
And then we keep coming back to where ethics fit into this picture. Is it really an ethical process if there is little support offered once parents have their child? New questions will pop up years into the future. Where should those parents go? Is it really ethical if the birth parents aren’t given continual emotional support to get through the process of placing their child? What about adoptees — what do adoption agencies provide beyond yearly picnics to celebrate those matches?
I hope as agencies restructure, they start looking at support as a lifetime process. They have the potential to help all members of the triad navigate open adoption. They can run on-going support groups, provide the option of check-ins to answer questions, have counselors on-staff that specialize in adoption issues. The RE is followed by the OB who is followed by the pediatrician, a doctor for every step of the way to answer questions and support that life that the RE helps create. What if adoption agencies created a similar model, with different professionals on-staff in order to help support all members of the triad?
Your thoughts? I’d especially love to hear from any member in the triad — what support is given after the adoption is complete?