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Connecting “Forever Families”

Transformative is one adjective tossed about these days to describe how navigating the Internet has changed our daily lives. Whether one is searching for the best local place for romantic waterfront dining or the quickest route to grandma’s, you can get there from here thanks to the Internet. Indeed, technology has transformed our world.

This same transformation has taken root in the adoption world. Many prospective adoptive parents find and get matched with birth mothers with the click of a mouse.  What historically has been a more ordered and professionally supervised exercise has evolved into a click and pick event. The proliferation of social media, online networking, and specific and targeted online profiles, to name a few, have coalesced to empower prospective adoptive parents to take ownership and control of the process.

While the pluses of utilizing this new world of technology are apparent, there are pitfalls of which to be mindful.

First, while the advent of new technologies is welcome, the specter remains of the dishonest person preying on the vulnerable, prospective adoptive parent. There are scheming birth parents who have begun to utilize the Internet to take advantage of prospective adoptive parents.  The media has been replete with examples of these sordid tales.

Even if prospective adoptive parents successfully connect with an above-board birth parent, there still must be dialogue, and knowing what to say, how to say it, and recognizing the red flags, are critical. Birth parents experience a variety of emotions and thought processes as they navigate the adoption option, and it is important for an adoption professional to help birth parents understand their inner and outwardly expressed fears while being mindful of the landmines and privacy concerns of adoptive parents.  And while adoptive parents can use the Internet to their advantage, they ultimately need the assistance of an adoption professional to complete their adoption. The lone wolf attitude regularly sets up the prospective adoptive parents for emotional heartache and financial heartbreak.

When partnering with an adoption professional, adoptive parents should demand a rigorous training component.  This includes how to engage in dialogue with a birth parent, not just how to speak, but which words to use and not use, and how to listen. A potential adoption match can be sown or lost in a matter of moments, depending on words and tone. This is an especially tricky situation if done electronically, as there is no face-to-face interaction and words and intent can often be misunderstood.

This training component can tangibly identify for the prospective parents areas to avoid when communicating with a birth parent, such as what a birth mother can be paid and when, what it means to adopt over state lines and when, how, and whether to divulge your identity (known as open adoption).

Moreover, proper training will help the adoption professional and prospective adoptive parents avoid scams and other fraudulent schemes. We’ve seen some cases where a birth mother turns out not to be pregnant, and others where a birth mother plays one vulnerable family off of another, all in a ruse for money.

Furthermore, training from an adoption professional will yield options to minimize and insulate the prospective adoptive family from getting too emotionally invested during the adoption process. Adoptive parents may be empowered in originating the initial birth parent contact, but then should turn over the reins to a competent and experienced adoption professional. This is particularly critical for the prospective family already deflated over a failed adoption.

In communities across America, well-intentioned women and men are engaging in their own outreach via digital technology to create a “forever family” through adoption.  By partnering with an adoption professional, these eager and anxious prospective adoptive parents can avoid pitfalls and see their dream of family realized.

Florida is the first state to offer board certification in adoption as a specialty for Florida-licensed attorneys. You may access a listing of these Florida board-certified adoption attorneys at www.floridabar.org. On the national level, The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) is an entity comprised of lawyers dedicated to the highest standards of legal representation in the field of adoption. You are encouraged to read more about AAAA at www.adoptionattorneys.org. Hiring a competent adoption professional can eliminate many heartaches for families and children, now and in the future.

Jeanne T. Tate is the managing partner of Jeanne T. Tate, P.A., and an adjunct professor at the University of Florida College of Law, where she teaches adoption law and procedure. She is also a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Florida Adoption Council.

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