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Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption

From the Donaldson Institute’s Report:

It is difficult to describe the extent to which the Internet is changing the everyday realities of adoption – and the lives of the millions of people it encompasses – without using words that sound hyperbolic. But a yearlong examination of the effects of this very new technology on a very old social institution indicates that they are systemic, profound, complex and permanent.

Social media, search engines, blogs, chat rooms, webinars, photo-listings and an array of other
modern communications tools, all facilitated by the Internet, are transforming adoption practices, challenging current laws and policies, offering unprecedented opportunities and resources, and raising critical ethical, legal and procedural issues about which adoption professionals, legislators and the personally affected parties, by their own accounts, have little reliable information, research or experience to guide them.

The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s research for this report affirmed that substantive information about the Internet’s impact on adoption is scarce in the scholarly literature – or anyplace else – so there is little reliable knowledge to inform policy and practice, or to guide families or professionals. To begin filling this gap, the Adoption Institute has embarked on a multiyear, firstof-its-kind study of the Internet’s impact on all aspects of adoption. Because there is a dearth of evidence-based information, most of the content of this report was derived from searching the Internet and getting input from the affected parties through a variety of means, including interviewing them and setting up a special email address to which they could send their input.

One key goal of this initial report by the Adoption Institute is to stimulate a national discussion about the Internet’s impact on adoption and how to regulate Internet-based adoption services to assure that they are legal and ethical, and that the interests of all those affected –particularly children– are protected. This report provides an overview of the evolving landscape; an explanation of the scope and impact of the changes; resources (albeit limited ones) to inform, protect and assist all those affected; and preliminary recommendations on legal, policy and practice reforms intended to better respond to adoption’s new realities. Our ultimate intent is to identify and promote policies and practices that enable this powerful technology to best serve the millions of children and families for whom adoption is part of everyday life.

Download PDF here: Untangling the Web Report