The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 12, 2013

Internet lifts shroud of secrecy on adoption


In some cases, teenagers are reaching out to biological families without their adoptive parents knowing, said Jeanette Yoffe, director of the Celia Center, a Los Angeles-based group that counsels families about foster care and adoption. She urges adoptive parents to establish those relationships before their children reach their teens.

“If you don’t get involved, your teenager is going to do it for you,” said Yoffe, who as an adult found her biological mother in Argentina after her brother created a Web page on Yahoo.

As the Internet has propelled more openness in adoption, some parents are trying to work out legal agreements laying out how and when they will communicate, instead of avoiding any contact at all, said Widener University School of Law professor Mary Kate Kearney. Parents on both sides of adoption, birth and adoptive, told the Donaldson Adoption Institute that the Web made it easier and less stressful to connect.

Communicating online “offers a little bit of distance,” said Aaron Winkle, an adoptive father in Michigan who emails photos and written updates monthly to his daughter’s biological mother. “It brings down the sense of fear. We realize that we long for the same things.”

And thanks to that trail of emails, he added, “our daughter will never have to wonder, ‘Did my birth mom love me?’ ”

The Internet also has perils: Aggressive online marketing of children has further commercialized adoption, the institute warned.

One especially troubling practice — shunting unwanted adoptees into other homes — has been brokered through online bulletin boards. But for families such as the Stapletons, the ease of posting a photo to Facebook has helped bring their everyday lives closer to the moms that bore their children and paved the way for their kids to connect later if they choose.

“We know that kids have a lot of information at their fingertips,” Beth Stapleton said. “We don’t ever want them to be surprised about anything.”


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