The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 12, 2013

Internet lifts shroud of secrecy on adoption

Gus met his birth mother only once after being adopted. But she watches his life unfold on Facebook week by week: His first day of preschool, toting a tiny backpack spangled with letters and numbers. The purple turkey he sculpted in class. The Katy Perry song he now loves to sing.

“You can never be loved enough,” said Beth Stapleton, who adopted the 4-year-old with her husband, Joel, right after Gus was born. The Michigan family created a private page to share photos and videos with his birth mother, and later did the same for their adopted daughter. “Why not let them have those connections in life?”

Such connections are no longer so rare. The days when adoption was shrouded in secrecy have faded away, and the Internet is a big part of the reason, according to a new report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a nonprofit think tank.

Teens can easily Google their biological relatives. Birth parents can follow adoptive families on Facebook. In a national survey, nearly a third of adoptive parents said they used the Internet to stay in touch with birth families of their kids. Half of those said their child was directly in touch through their own online account.

“The likely end of the era of closed adoption is one of the most profound changes brought about by the Internet,” the institute wrote in its latest report, based on an online survey of more than 2,000 parents, adoptees and professionals. In a report last year, it estimated that only 5 percent of recent infant adoptions were closed.

Nearly three out of four adoptees who were surveyed said they had turned to the Internet to search for biological family members. More than half said they used the Web to learn more without intruding on their lives, keeping tabs through Facebook or combing through public records online.

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