November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and it is a good time to examine the increasing role of the Internet as it relates to the furtherance of adoption. Over the course of the last year, several high-profile adoption cases have cast the Internet in a central role as "villain." The Internet, however, has no jurisdiction over adoption - in New York State, as an example, concurrent jurisdiction over adoption resides in Family Court and Surrogate's Court. Therein lies the distinction that so few are making in these heartbreaking controversies - babies are not adopted "over the Internet." Rather, the Internet is a communications vehicle which brings interested parties together - a conduit which permits the prospective adoptive parent or parents and the birthmother (unfortunately, almost uniformly without the participation of the birthfather) to find each other. By definition, when you "cast as wide a net as possible" you will get more responses - more people who are legitimate and more people with fraudulent intentions. Much to the dismay of many, the media and the public at large seem to focus intently on the handful of Internet-assisted adoptions gone awry and not on the thousands of Internet-assisted adoptions which result in happy families being created or expanded.
As recently as several years ago, those who pursued domestic private-placement adoption relied primarily on print advertising in their efforts to locate a suitable baby. Indeed, along with word-of-mouth connections (i.e., local obstetrician, clergy, etc.), this remains a viable method of finding that right birthmother and establishing a relationship with her which leads to a successful adoption. The Internet functions as an additional form of advertising, albeit one with a reach far greater than any local Pennysaver. To illustrate with a typical example - why shouldn't a 19 year old in Memphis, Tennessee be able to log-on to adoption.com or elsewhere and respond to the "Dear Birthmother" letter of a couple from Syracuse, New York? She is, after all, considering providing her baby to others premised on the expectation that the child will be the beneficiary of a more privileged home than that which she could provide. Similarly, the 45 year old single Manhattan resident with the financial, emotional, and psychological wherewithal to be a successful father or mother (determined by the pre-placement home study of a licensed social worker) ought not be restricted in his or her quest for a child.
Everyone who is qualified has the right to adopt - but not everyone approaches adoption from the right perspective. Responsible prospective adoptive couples and individuals will realize that there are a number of participants and costs which comprise a successful private adoption. Generally speaking, they are - attorneys (for the prospective adopters and for the birthmother) and social workers, psychological counseling, medical and delivery expenses (often covered by insurance), reasonable birthmother living expenses (when permitted by a particular jurisdiction), and travel expenses. Costs and payments associated with a private adoption have to be documented and approved by the Court - "baby selling" is not only horribly immoral, but illegal. When big corners are cut - by attempting to bypass the benefits of quality legal representation, and by utilizing the "services" of facilitators (a term which, at least in New York State, is considered a pejorative in the adoption community) - as was done in the recent cases in the news - tragedy is likely to follow.
One of the most positive functions of the Internet is that it has the power to bring people together whose paths otherwise wouldn't cross. When the purpose of that introduction is for the consideration of a possible adoption, one would be hard-pressed to find a more worthy cause. Let's hope that the controversies of the past year serve as a warning to those who fail to apply appropriate care, protection, and common sense when using the Internet.
Courtesy of: Law Office of Sanford M. Benardo
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