Browsing for adoptions in Alberta
February 11, 2003 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, the Province of Alberta launched an adoption web site for its foster care children. Detailed and often heartbreaking profiles of each child are available, including their background and behavioural problems (many, for example, suffer from fetal alcohol effect). But critics complain that too much information about the children is being made available, and that the site is reducing the children to the level of commodities. (Not the first adoption web site, but it's a first for a Canadian province, I think.)
posted by mcwetboy (14 comments total)
(See also Boing Boing; more CBC coverage.)
posted by mcwetboy at 1:50 PM on February 11, 2003

I can see how this would alarm people, but personally I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Who cares if you know their name and physical description and birthday. What, exactly, are people concerned that people are going to do with that information that is wrong or bad? If it helps these kids get adopted, I think that the good of that far outweighs any of the potential harm from the site.

However, as one of the kids, I wouldn't want MY behavioral problems spelled out. I wonder if the kids get to see the site?
posted by aacheson at 1:56 PM on February 11, 2003

we can shop for groceries online now.. why not children.

absolutely fucking pathetic.. and i'm canadian.
posted by mrplab at 2:28 PM on February 11, 2003

Waaahahaaay too much information about these kids. Can you imagine being a 13 year old orphan whose personal information can be found online by schoolmates?

At the very least take down the info with regards to abuse histories, behavioural challenges or remove the identifying photos. Basic information, without photos, is all that should be made available. That's all that prospective parents should be concerned with anyways.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:33 PM on February 11, 2003

A fellow I grew up with spent his life (till the age of 18) jumping from one foster home to the other - an attractive, sharp kid, friendly kid. These kids are desperate, they need and want a permanent home more than anything else in the world. I'm sure they could give a rat's ass who sees their personal information as long as someone, eventually, adopts them.
posted by rotifer at 2:52 PM on February 11, 2003

Weird, that was a bug.
posted by rotifer at 2:54 PM on February 11, 2003

As an adoptive parent, I've gone through a number of profiles, and sitting and looking through print dossiers, one after another, I felt like I was engaged in some sickening form of catalog shopping. But at least those profiles were private, the information wasn't available for any schmo to find and (mis)use as they see fit.

Not only is this distressing due to the complete disregard of the privacy of these children, I really would like to think that the preliminary steps of bringing a child into a family via adoption shouldn't bear so much resemblance to shopping Don't like Sally? Just two clicks will take you to Susie! And two more to Mandy or Kelly or Lauren...
posted by Dreama at 2:54 PM on February 11, 2003

"*sniff* I'll take him..

Do you have him in blonde?"
posted by Space Coyote at 3:47 PM on February 11, 2003

This site is not unique. You weren't shopping? Why didn't you simply ask the caseworker who they would most like to see in a good home? Perhaps you did, if so I apologize.
posted by rotifer at 3:56 PM on February 11, 2003

What happens when prospective parents go look in person, as opposed to online, for a child to adopt?

What information on specific kids is disclosed?
posted by titboy at 7:22 PM on February 11, 2003

My younger sister is adopted. I can remember going to an "adoption exchange" meeting (I think that's what it was called) when I was 16 or 17, when my family was...well, looking for a child to adopt.

It was a little like a trade show. There were booths you could walk by, where social workers had posted descriptions of the children. The descriptions were very much like those on the site. There were also videos of children shown. It was a strange experience, but it worked.

I was the first one to see the description of my (now) sister. As I recall, the title was "Spunky little dynamo!" I can remember bringing it to my parents' attention and saying "I think this one will fit in to our family."

Yes, it sounds very strange and cold at first but, as I said, it works. As long as the real identities of the children are protected (the names are not always the correct names, you don't get to get anywhere close to actually meeting the child until you have gone through a home study) having that information on the web is a good idea.

Sure, it's uncomfortable knowing that some of the children's personal details are being published on the internet, but it's a lot more than simply "uncomfortable" for these children to be without families. It's extremely difficult to find adoptive homes for older children. If it works, it's a great idea.
posted by Badmichelle at 7:56 PM on February 11, 2003

Historically, the process of adoption has been much worse. During the orphan train era, children were paraded like livestock. Some orphans used as cheap slave labor.

I think the group could use the web site to protect child privacy and encourage adoptions.
posted by azileretsis at 8:13 AM on February 12, 2003

An update: the Alberta adoption site is not only controversial, it's getting into trouble. Three of the children listed didn't even know they were up for adoption until their classmates saw their pictures on the site, and the province's privacy commissioner has asked that the site be shut down.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:32 PM on February 12, 2003

Sure, it's uncomfortable knowing that some of the children's personal details are being published on the internet, but it's a lot more than simply "uncomfortable" for these children to be without families.

One discomfort need not be used to justify another, especially when the other is so easily and obviously remedied with simple measures and safeguards. That's like saying that a post-operative cancer patient ought not have painkillers because the pain of the operation is a lot easier to deal with than the pain of dying.

It's quite pleasing to learn that there is someone in a position of authority who recognises this. Good on the privacy commissioner.
posted by Dreama at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2003

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