A few weeks ago, child welfare activists discovered a Facebook page from an agency (https://www.facebook.com/...) where two kids around 5- or 6-years-old, adopted by American families nine months before, were advertised as available for adoption again. The two ads showed photos of cute black kids and gave favorable descriptions of their characters and abilities of the girl and the boy. The twitterati and internet savvy identified the kids from earlier rawer versions of that adorned post quickly as siblings being adopted together from the Democratic Republic of Congo and traced and identified the couple who wanted to disrupt the just created family bond. Not only the disruption itself and the disruption after nine short months created outrage, but more enraging issues played a role in this case.
The brother and sister were to be re-adopted separately and the future ex-parents expressed that they wanted some reimbursement for the high costs they had made. Here the original - and not the later edited and cleaned up - post for the boy from a tweet:
Further, the parents, according to their blog, were devout Christians immersed in the current evangelical orphan theology, which sees adoption as a holy mission for the believers to 'save' kids from poor countries. (Blog removed: http://helpbringjanaehome.blogspot.com). On a political level, the nine-month period was problematic, because Congo stopped issuing exit permits for adoptees more than ten months ago because of stories like these in our country and the rampant adoption fraud, child trafficking and corruption in their country. There could be a serious chance that the kids were smuggled across the border. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...)
A small Facebook and Twitter storm resulted in the removal of the two ads from the Facebook page. They were still up on the website of the agency, but were taken down soon after that as well (http://www.wiaa.org/...). Initially was their removal explained in a post, which talked about the problems the family had with the public attention, but that excuse was also removed after a few days. A next post - still up, but for how long - tried to give perspective on disruption and re-adoption; it offered a letter by a woman, who wrote about the horrible pain she suffered as result of the violent and otherwise difficult behavior of her adopted child, and asked not be judged for her actions (https://www.facebook.com/...). The adoption agency however couldn't hold the fort against new media activists who took the position that adoption is irreversible and that you can't un-child a child, especially not a child who had lost its first parents already. Aren't there thousands of biological parents who have to cope with for example schizophrenic and aggressive children? In adoption there can't be buyers remorse.
The new media became a powerful instrument for those who oppose the powers that be in the world of adoption. The immediate dissemination of information and the possibility to address issues personally to those who -- in the eye of the senders -- need to be addressed, forces the traditional adoption world to react. An establishment blogger recently retracted a guest post, which was fiercely attacked by twitterers and facebookers with the following remark: "There is such a climate of fear, and adoption is so politicized, that some adoption agencies will not allow their clients to engage in advocacy by telling their stories." (http://childrendeservefamilies.com/...). An establishment adoption conference in the spring of this year organized a special session, how to deal with the flood of critical voices about what is called by the activists the 'adoption industry', or in the organizers words: "a presentation on the importance of online reputation management and the do's and don't's of cyber engagement" (http://www.adoptioncouncilblog.org/...). And on July 21 a column published in the Christian Post with the title 'Parents Don't Need to Apologize for Adopting an Orphan', went in full defense mode: "Far too often, the media and anti-adoption crowd frame the discussion of adoption in such a way that we find ourselves back on our heels, feeling defensive or apologetic. All one need do is utter the word child-trafficking and suddenly adoption advocates and adoptive parents fall silent, or worse yet, stumble over their words to defend and excuse the way their family was formed. Let's cut it out, ok? Let's take control of the conversation and proudly own the genesis of our families and the integrity of the adoption." (http://www.christianpost.com/...)
Let me be open, I am one of those activists and was involved in some of the above. I one of 12 administrators of a Facebook page, Adoption News and Events (https://www.facebook.com/...), that offers daily all we can find in the news and on the web that is related to adoption. Further we cover many adoptee and birthmother blogs. Most of what we post - we really can't help it - reflects badly on the industry. And what seems to be positive is often 'analyzed' by our followers in the tradition of open and not censored forums in 'honest' terms. Sometimes we have, however, less curt voices as well. Many of our posts find their way in the twitter universe directed to those in power.
There are dozens of other Facebook sites and blogs, which host other adoption activists, who try to do the same as we from a somewhat different angle. There is an informal, often overlapping cyber network that spreads the word twitter-wise 'collectively.' The results of the combined efforts can be discovered in the above Congo example.
The growing anger of the adoption establishment and its animosity toward the activists is based in the constituency of the two groups. The first consists for the bigger part of parents and those who are working for their interests, sometimes on a not for profit basis, more often commercially: agencies, social workers, lawyers, trade-organizations, lobby groups. They see adoption as a solution for societal ills in our country and elsewhere. Adopting is 'saving' and adopters are saviors. The industry depends on the continuation of this belief. Essential therefore is the moral and financial support of the evangelical orphan movement.
Conversely the activists are individuals and collectives of individuals; most of them are adoptees and first parents. Having lived the less happy side of adoption by being abandoned or having lost their child to adoption, they focus on family preservation and reunification in the first place and see adoption as a welfare measure of last resort, that is: non-commercial and well-regulated open adoption or legal guardianship. They see traditional adoption as catering to the wishes and longings of the oft infertile parents, and not to the needs of the kids and their first parents. The activists get some support from academia and several foundations. Many non-evangelical Christian and international organizations and NGO's share their vision.
There is in my mind no doubt that the activists will get the upper hand in the discussion and that adoption as we know it now, will be regarded in not too long as morally unacceptable. The voices and the perspectives of the adoptees and first parents, who should carry the debate anyway, will only get stronger and the new media gives them the effective outlet to be clearly heard. Adoption will move away from adoptive parents and business and towards child and first family welfare. The nervous and hurt attitude of the industry shows that the shift has begun.