This story was on public radio yesterday AM. The story was spurred by this report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. It’s about how modern technology is transforming adoption practice. And it is not in a particularly good way.
I know that there has been some criticism of adoption agencies here recently, particularly in the context of the recent Utah adoption case. Much of that is doubtless warranted, particularly in the Achane case.
But while there are undoubtedly some bad or unethical adoption agencies, there are also many that are quite careful thoughtful. What I mean is that there are agencies (and individuals) involved in adoption who take the responsibilities quite seriously–they do real and meaningful counselling and screening. This means, of course, that they take time to do their work.
The internet offers faster (and very likely cheaper) ways to find a child or to place a child. But faster and cheaper are not the same as better. There is ample reason for concern here, but it’s not easy to see what to do about it. It puts me in mind of the ways in which people turn to DIY insemination or surrogacy. It’s not hard to imagine the host of problems that can result, not least of them the risk of commodification. (And I say that as someone whom I’m sure many of you think is indifferent to commodification.)
The report also documents a second set of changes wrought by modern technology. Finding birth relatives is easier and easier. The idea of a closed adoption–one that remains shrouded in secrecy–is increasingly fanciful.
Again there are broad ramifications here, perhaps particularly during a time of transition. (What I mean is, once all adoptions are open adoptions there may be less to note about this.) And of course, the ramifications of technology in this regard go beyond adoption, as websites like Donor Sibling Registry attest.
There’s nothing really surprising in the observation that technology is changing the way we live–you all know that. But it is important to consider these specific changes. Particularly the first set of changes–the ones featured in the NPR report–are troubling. I just don’t quite see what to do about it at the moment.