Adoption offers abound on the Web
U.S.-based www.datzfound.com helps those who wish to find suitable children
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Even the most cursory surf around the Internet throws up a host of sites offering children for adoption.
Those wishing to start a new family, or add to an existing one, need only type "child, adopt" into their search engines to access a plethora of organisations providing an online adoption service, almost all of them based in the U.S.
Some of these organisations simply offer advice to those thinking of adopting. www.childofmydreams.com, for instance, supplies users with expert information on U.S. adoption laws, the adoption process, adoption agencies and what to do if you want to adopt a child from outside the U.S..
Others, however, use the Web to advertise specific children in need of adoption, complete with photographs, personal profiles and application forms for those wanting to take the process a stage further.
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One such organisation is Chicago-based Finally Family, which specialises in placing orphans from Romania and Bulgaria with U.S. parents.
Their website, www.finally-family.com, provides a picture gallery of about 25 children in search of a new home, including five-year old Petia, described as "completely healthy and adorable," and Vesselin, three, whose "nervous and mental development are slightly delayed."
Users who see a child in whom they are interested submit an initial online application form. In return for an unspecified fee the agency then helps them through the entire adoption process, arranging initial contact with the child, organising paperwork and immigration details, and providing back-up support once the child has been placed.
A similar service is offered by the Virginia-based Datz Foundation, whose Web site -- www.datzfound.com -- provides details both of children available and the costs involved.
Those wishing to adopt an American child, for instance, are charged an agency fee of $3,500 (£2,376), rising to $7,500 (£5,091) for a trans-racial adoption.
A Guatemalan child, on the other hand, such as one-year old Roberto, will cost the prospective parent a $3,500 agency fee plus a $15,000 (£10,180) fee to a local attorney.
In certain cases, such as that of three-year old Nguyen from Vietnam, who suffers from Thalassemia and a lazy eye, the agency says it would be prepared to reduce its fee to attract a parent.
Although there are a number of unscrupulous "adoption brokers" who are using the Internet to sell children to the highest bidder, there is no question about the probity of agencies such as the Datz Foundation and Finally Family.
Both subject prospective adopters to a rigorous vetting procedure and operate completely within the letter of the law.
At the same time, however, there is no established code of practice for online adoption services -- either national or international -- and this has led to concerns that children are simply being marketed like commodities.
"If these Web sites are drawing attention to the needs of children, then to an extent that is a good thing," says Jeffrey Coleman of Britain's BAAF (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering). "It does, however, feel like the commodification of children, and that can link into systematic abuse.
"There should certainly be very close regulation of the way the children are presented to ensure that it is done in an appropriate and ethical way."
The pitfalls of Internet adoption
Child of My Dreams
The Datz Foundation
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