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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

December 2012 Archives

More about the internet and adoption

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On Monday, we posted about the Evan B. Donaldson report about the increase in the use of the internet and social media in adoptions. To highlight some of the personal stories about how the internet and social media have played a role in the lives of adopted individuals, adoptive parents and first/birth parents, here are some links to stories that came out over the past week.

National Public Radio - the story "Finding a child online: How the web is transforming adoption" features a couple who created their own website along with a "Letter to the Birth Parent" in an attempt to "market" themselves to a potential birth parent.

The New York Times begins its story with the ways that birth parents and adoptees have used the internet to find and connect with each other. In "Internet use in adoption cuts 2 ways, report says," the focus is more on the ways adoptees and birth/first famlies are using social media sites to search and make contact.

Adoption bill passes the Senate

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This story did not make national headlines, but the story is an important one to understand for anyone working in international adoption.

On December 7th, 2012, the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act passed the senate. The bill was sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu, John Kerry, Dick Lugar and James Inhofe in a bipartisan effort to increase the accountability of adoption agencies facilitating international adoptions.

Currently adoption agencies who facilitate international adoptions do not have to be accredited, leading to inconsistent practices and opportunities for misuse and fraud. U.S. agencies that work with Hague countries (that is, those countries that have signed the Hague convention) must be accredited; however many small agencies work with non-Hague countries and are not accredited through the Council of Accreditation (COA) in the U.S. The new legislation will require that all adoption agenices facilitating international adoptions will need to be in compliance with the accreditation requirements necessary for working with Hague countries even if they facilitate adoptions with non-Hague countries.

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international treaty that aims to protect children involved in intercountry adoption from abduction, kidnapping, sale, exploitation and trafficking for the purpose of adoption.

For more information see Senator Landrieu's site here.

For a list of current Hague-accredited agencies, see the Department of State's website here.

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Last Thursday, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released its newest report focused on the impact of the internet on adoption. The report describes the impact of the internet and social media as having "transformative effects - positive and negative - on how adoption is perceived, practiced and in terms of the policies and laws that are responding from, and attempting to proactively address, ethical challenges that are raised.

The report was instigated because of the lack of research on the use of the internet and social media in adoption, as well as to begin a dialogue. The Adoption Institute's key findings include:

  • Adoption is more and more about finding children for families than in finding families for children, with a growing "commodification" as supply and demand for infants "heightens competition."
  • The ability for unregulated websites to unethically facilitate adoption practices as a way to compete with brick and mortar adoption agencies raises concerns.
  • More birth parents and adoptees are using social media and other internet-related technologies to search and contact each other.
  • Recruitment for adoptive families for children with special needs has been more successful through internet technologies.
  • Prospective and adoptive families are able to find many resources and supports through internet sites.

The report also laid out several practice, policy and legal recommendations. Among them:

  • The development of a best-practice standards guide, by key organizations, experts in the field, and - though not included I would add adoptive parents, first parents and adopted individuals as well.
  • The development of training programs for adoption professionals on a number of items including:
  • Positive and negative uses of the internet and social media
  • The internet and social media as a tool for search and reunion, and how professionals can counsel those using the internet for search and reunion
  • The use of the internet for parents (both birth/first and adoptive) to obtain adoption services
  • An examination of the current policies and laws related to fraud, exploitation and other illegal activities and the internet
  • Working with internet and social media companies about issues of privacy, ethics, and conduct of users
  • An examination of current laws regarding the ability of adult adopted persons from accessing original birth information.

For more information about the key findings and to read the whole report, see the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute link here.

A webinar on engaging families around kinship care is available from the Florida's Center for the Advancement of Child Welfare Practice. This video could be helpful for practitioners looking for stragegies when working with families to provide kinship care. This video was created in 2008.

Jack Levine and Ron Morris developed this video training. They discuss differences in family structures, the development of a family engagement plan, working with families and the need for professionals to advocate for comprehensive services.

You can access the video here.

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For the past 13 years, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has invited television viewers to consider adoption through their annual holiday special, A Home for the Holidays.

This year is no difference. Scheduled for December 19, 2012, at 8 pm, the Rascal Flats, American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, Matchbox Twenty, Melissa Etheridge, and Rachel Crow (an adoptee and singer and contestant on the X Factor) will perform on the annual special.

Crow, 14, was adopted from foster care. On the show information page, Crow says, "Everything I've done has been possible because of my family. They gave me the love and support to follow my dreams."

Other presenters will include Wayne Brady, Kevin Frazier and Jillian Michaels (also a recent adoptive parent).

For more information check out the show information on Wendy's website here.

Foster care by the numbers - from Casey Family Programs

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Casey Family Programs has a fact sheet with a breakdown of the numbers of foster youth in the U.S. You can access this fact sheet here.


Building social capital for youth in foster care

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Earlier this month we discussed social media and adopted and foster youth. While social media is often discussed as a concern regarding the ways in which youth use it, what isn't always as talked about is how it is part of a youth's overall social capital and why social capital is an important area that young people, particularly those in care, need help with.

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative recently released their Issue Brief #2 on Social Capital: Building Quality Networks for Young People in Foster Care and it is available at this link.

Social capital is very important for youth in foster care, who typically lose connections with important friends, family and other people through the transitory nature of being in foster care. According to the issue brief, social capital is made up of a person's reciprocal and mutual social relationships.

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Social capital has several dimensions, including the number of relationships, the quality of those relationships and the resources that are available as a result of these relationships. Think of the saying often used about getting a job - "it's who you know."

For youth who do not experience foster care, the modeling of social relationships and the ability to see how social networking happens in different contexts is demonstrated in family and in the community. For youth in care who experience multiple transitions, it may be more difficult to see examples of long-term, caring, reciprocal, trusting relationships extended over time. In fact, our system once discouraged foster care adoption or allowing foster parents to get too attached to the youth in their care.

This issue brief outlines a few practical ways to help foster social capital experiences for foster youth, including helping to make school stability a priority, supporting sibling relationships, engaging with birth family as much as safely possible, maintaining involvement with the child's community and neighborhood and supporting the development of positive peer relationships.

I recently came across this resource from the National Resource Center for Adoption, part of the Children's Bureau network of Technical Assistance programs.

The Youth Permanency Cluster or YPC, is a group of demonstration projects funded in October 2005 during which sites worked to create, implement and evaluate strategies for achieving permanency for youth that involve practices that have not always been encouraged in traditional paradigms of "adoption":

  • Open adoption, in particular with sibling groups and families of origin

  • Promoting a range of permanency options including guardianship and kinship care

  • Promoting

models that draw on collaboaration and youth leadership

More information on the projects can be accessed at this link.

You can also download a copy of a powerpoint presentation, "Successful Strategies in Achieving Youth Permanency" that provides an overview of the projects.


An article for The Republic and published late November highlighted the challenges that some adoptive families face that lead to a diruption or dissolution of an adoption.

The article highlighted one family whose adopted child struggled with mental health and behavioral issues so extreme, the family felt they had no other options but to "return him" to the system.

However, it is not just adoptive parents adopting from foster care who make these decisions. From famous adoptive parents like Joyce Maynard who announced this year she had dissolved the adoption of two Ethiopian adopted siblings to the case that made international news, Torry Hansen's "return" via sending her Russian born adopted child to Russia alone on a plane, adoptive parents often struggle to find quality and effective services for their children and themselves. Some parents, such as the ones in the The Republic article, "return" the child in order to get services that they could not access on their own.

With an increase in foster care adoptions in the U.S., the need for services will also need to increase in order to support these chlidren, many of whom have experienced a significant amount of abuse, neglect and trauma. With no way of tracking national disruptions and dissolutions for all adopted children, the scope of the issue is difficult to know. For the families who struggle, however, the impact of the lack of services is devastating.

The Republic article asks, "Who helps when adoptions unravel?" Another question we need to ask is "what can we do to prevent disruptions and dissolutions to begin with?"

What are your thoughts?