By Adoption101.com staff
Earlier this week the Chicago Tribune reported on the Illinois Attorney General filing a lawsuit against a California adoption law office (Adoption Network Law Center). The civil lawsuit is based on Internet ads by the law center which appear in Illinois, but which the Attorney General maintains violates Illinois law since the law center is not approved by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to place children for adoption. Although some feel the lawsuit is more posturing than any real effort to limit internet advertising regarding adoption, it will have an interesting impact on adoption if other states follow Illinois’ lead in seeking to curb advertising by out-of-state entities who do not meet guidelines for adoption entities within the state where the advertisement appears.
The issue has impact on independent adoption as well as agency adoption. International adoptions are not seen as falling with the states’ domain enough to trigger the same outrage over the issue, so it is usually an issue only in newborn domestic adoption.
The article states:
“There are about 30 profiles of Illinois couples on the Adoption Network Law Center website seeking to become parents. The company is one of at least a dozen online brokers operating in Illinois and has gone further by marketing directly to state residents, with links such as "Click here to learn more about our unplanned pregnancy help in Illinois" and "click here to learn how to find and adopt a baby in Illinois," according to the lawsuit.
The Illinois Adoption Reform Act, which took effect in 2005, was designed to drive out unscrupulous operators and take the profit motive and aggressive marketing out of adoption. One birth mother was offered kitchen appliances to place her child for adoption, said a Glen Ellyn couple trying to adopt.”
The Donaldson Adoption Institute, a highly regarded national non-for-profit entity dedicated to improving adoption policy noted that he number of healthy infants available for adoption has dwindled during the past two decades, ushering in an era of fraud and "growing commodification of adoption on the Web." A review of popular adoption sites like adoption.com are filled with ads similar to the entity being sued by the Attorney General.
Adoption101.com, while not wishing to see any adoptive parent or birth parent’s choices and options limited by state borders, still finds some good aspects to the suit. It is disturbing that most of the high-price banners and other Internet ads employed by a half dozen or so high-profile adoption agencies, facilitators and law offices use ads that while not perhaps misleading, or often also not fully straight-forward. For example, these ads rarely tell the viewer of the ad that the adoption entity is in a distant state. The office address is rarely provided, and the phone number is usually an 800 number, which hides the fact the adoption entity is not a local option, rather perhaps thousands of miles away. This information should be provided in the initial viewing of the ad.
Adoption101.com supports legislation in each state which requires every advertisement related to adoption to require the advertiser to state in the ad if they are an adoption agency, attorney or a facilitator not licensed as an adoption agency, and also provide their physical office address. This information should be required to be as large as the largest typeface used in the ad to avoid it being provided in such a minimal fashion that it is not noticed.