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High speed photolistings, will the adoptions crash and burn?

Some of us in the Bastard community have had concerns for years about the way kids available for adoption are being marketed via photolistings. The way children, particularly young children are being required to forfeit their own privacy in hopes of gaining a family raises many ethical issues. Unfortunately, photolistings of children have now become commonplace, on the internet, in shopping mall displays, etc.

But naturally, there’s always more. How about ‘little adoptables’ marketed on the sides of race cars?

Yup, here you’ll find an article about just that, Adoption to take center stage at Grove.

One of my many problems with the utilization of photolistings, on top the loss of personal privacy these kids endure, are the ways in which the kids and their pictures become parts of the marketing background noise. Thus people for whom adoption had never even crossed their minds, fall in love with an image and decide to ‘go get one’.

Last season, Michele and Dean Lobaugh of York came out of the grandstand and began the procedure to adopt a child. They saw a picture of Michael on one of the sprint car wings and were moved enough to change their lives forever.

and

Esh said the Lobaugh family are regular Williams Grove fans, didn’t have children and didn’t want to adopt until they saw his picture on the wing.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, these adoptions are slightly different than the Healthy White Infant (HWI) top dollar adoptions. These are the kids that genuinely are ‘waiting’ languishing in fostercare, and being marketed to a different set of potential adopters:

Williams Grove fans are the kind of people Diakon is looking for. “Middle income, blue-collar workers … people that have been through some things in their lives,” Esh said.

The children all have special needs, Esh said.

Unlike HWI adoptions, that can be extremely expensive, these are kids the state will just be glad to ‘unload’.

“It doesn’t cost any money and you don’t have to be perfect to adopt these kids,” Esh said.

and

Then it could take another six months to a year to get a child place in a home. It’s cost-free through the Statewide Adoption Network.

Note that once again we see that talking point, ‘adopters don’t have to be perfect’, this is a phrase that came out of marketing research after it was determined that one of the reasons some couples don’t adopt foster kids is that they had the impression that had to be superhuman, heroes, or ‘perfect’ to take on these kids.

A real marketing push is on at the moment trying to change that impression. We were treated to some of the ad council campaign television advertisements over the Ethics and Accountability in Adoption conference last fall. The Adoptuskids campaign has been central to these efforts.

One of the problems with such, this notion all too often phrased as “anyone can adopt” is that that’s a phrase that very definitely comes from the perspective of the state trying to offload the kids. From the kids perspective, it can’t be a matter of just anyone, adopters need to be the ‘right’ someone. Doubly so in cases where kids come with ’special needs’ whether past abuse or health issues. These kids don’t just need a home any home, they need a home where they’re going to be ok.

Messages like ‘anyone can adopt’ are recipes for disaster. ‘Special needs’ kids don’t need to be shipped off into a new situation filled with abuse or even sexual abuse, they need a home conducive to helping them, and yes, that does often mean finding special people. That’s part of the deep problem with the foster system mess. Every kid placed, no matter where, is counted as a victory because the condition for declaring victory is numeric, quantity not quality.

So yes, the program to date has found 22 kids permanent homes:

A total of 22 children have been adopted through the program.

But what of the other kids who don’t come away from these events with a new family applying to adopt them?

How is this different from the adoption fairs, where Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) came out to, for example a local park to ‘look over the merchandise’ and decide whether or not to take one home? (60 minutes did a reasonably good piece on such years back.)

When the spotlight is finally off, and the crowds have gone home, how do you suppose those who weren’t picked feel? They spend their day, dressed up, smile pasted in place, doing everything they can to be ‘cute enough’ to be one of the lucky few picked, only to fail, again.

Sure, the kids get a night of autographs and wishlist gifts showered on them, along with getting to see their pictures on the cars. They get to once again, get their hopes up that maybe SOMEONE will want them.

But at what real cost?

When adopting kids themselves become just another ‘impulse buy’, a decision that gets made inside a marketing pressure machine where are we?

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