Adoption is a very hot topic online, and you can find adoption-related material on the Internet in various ways. One way is to use a search engine (a program that browses for websites) such as www.google.com and try the keyword “adoption.” This is not, however, the recommended way to search, because you'll end up with thousands of search results. You'll also find scads of sites related to the “adoption” of an interesting array of animals—dogs, cats, lemurs, and so forth. The animal sites are readily identifiable and can be easily ignored—unless you also want a pet!
Instead, use at least a couple of words, in quotations or parentheses (or both), such as (“adopting Chinese babies”) or (“adopting infants”) Chinese. Every search engine has its own vagaries, and you can try different options until you end up with a number of “hits” that seems worth looking at.
Here's a sampling of the kind of adoption-related sites you're likely to encounter:
- Websites maintained by individuals or organizations (adoption agencies or attorneys; adoptive parent support groups; or individual adoptive parents who want to share what they know; organizations that want to change state adoption laws; people who are trying to search for their birthparents)
- Subscription list services, chat rooms, and newsgroups maintained by special-interest groups on topics related to adoption, infertility, and parenting/family issues
- Actual photos of children who need families
- Advertisements from lawyers and other adoption groups
- Editorials and news articles related to adoption
- Self-help information for adoptive parents, adopted adults, or birthparents
In addition, consider checking out the following websites:
- The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC) at www.calib.com/naic/ maintains a site that offers some helpful full-text articles.
- Adoption.com is a popular site that provides a great deal of information for adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents (as well as adopted adults). Its address is www.adoption.com. This site covers both international and U.S. adoption.
- The State Department has a website for people interested in adopting foreign-born children. Check it out at http://travel.state.gov/adopt.html.
- Other sites with considerable information are www.adopting.org and www.comeunity.com. (You could spend hours surfing through this information and completely lose track of time. I know. I have.)
One amazing and exciting aspect of the Internet is that some sites, such as some adoption agencies, actually post photographs of adoptable children in the United States and other countries. So your computer can “show” you who your future child might be! Very heady stuff.
You can also subscribe to any number of adoption e-mail lists (also called mailing lists or “listservs”) merely by sending the message “subscribe” to the appropriate address.
Some lists that focus on different types of children (older, younger, kids with particular problems, or kids from specific countries) and that are oriented to particular types of parents, such as single adopters or gay adopters. For instance, the Eastern European Adoption Coalition has 19 different listservs with more than 5,000 subscribers. To learn more, go to www.eeadopt.org. If you're single and want to adopt a child, obtain some help from a single adopter list at www.adopting.com/single-aparents/sap-faq.html. To learn more about a list for gay, bisexual, and lesbian parents, go to www.cyberhiway.com/aparent/faq.html.
As you surf the Net, remember that all websites present a particular agenda or point of view, whether they are run by individuals, agencies, or organizations. Many people use the Internet to promote their own ideas about how adoption should be handled in their state or country.
Unfortunately, sometimes people state their own opinions as if they were facts or are clearly (or not-so-clearly) promoting a particular agenda. Read everything you read online with a healthy dose of skepticism. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you cruise through websites or user newsgroups:
- What does the purpose of this site seem to be? To provide information, to sell you a product, to do something else? Be skeptical. Don't let your brains fall out just because a site has cute baby pictures everywhere.
- Can you determine how current the information is? It's a normal tendency to assume that anything posted on the Internet was placed there today, or maybe last week, at the latest. This is rarely true. Check at the bottom of the website page for notice of when the site was last updated.
- Who appear to be the target viewers? Adopted adults, adoptive parents, birthparents, all of the above? This isn't good or bad, but you need to obtain a general idea of who the audience is.
- Who is providing this information? An agency, an attorney, an organization, an individual? The harder this is to determine, the more wary of the information you should be. Be especially skeptical if you can't find an address or phone number anywhere on the site, and when you click on a “contact us” icon, you simply get an email form to fill out. Sometimes it's just an oversight, but other times it's a sign that the organization isn't as legitimate as it wants you to think it is.
- If this site is linked to others, what are the other sites like? Remember “birds of a feather flock together.” Good guys usually hang out with other good guys. And vice versa. Of course, there are exceptions. But in general, it's a reasonable assumption.
- Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Keep your watchful eye and skeptical mind in high gear. There are plenty of people out there who are eager to part you from your hard-earned money. They don't care that you're a wonderful person who just wants a child to love. Such people see you as an easy mark. Even very smart people are taken in by adoption scammers.
If you do decide to post questions and opinions online, always remember that what you write in a public forum can be read by whomever logs on. Nor does it “scroll off”: Material is often saved for years and is searchable. You don't want the child you adopt (or his friends!) to read years from now something embarrassing that you wrote.
Even with e-mail, be careful what you say about your family or private life. If you wouldn't mind reading what you said on the front page of your local newspaper, then go ahead and say it in an e-mail.
As long as you maintain some healthy skepticism about the material you come across on the Internet, you probably will be quite dazzled by the enormous wealth of information you find.
There's a great deal of information available out there for people who want to adopt and who are willing to do their homework. Information from people you know; magazines, newsletters, and books; adoption agency and attorney experts; and, of course, the ubiquitous cyberspace community is all available to you. You'll have to do some weeding and your own independent thinking, but there has never been a better time for gathering the information you need to adopt a child.