Monday, September 11, 2006

Adoption Photolisting Question and One Answer

A commenter asked Bill, who works as a key player in a state photolisting, to respond to the effectiveness of photolistings.

Here is his response:

Photo listings are the primary method we have to reach potential adoptive families outside our local area. They have been the number one source of families for children placed out-of-state and we often receive numerous inquiries and studies from families within hours of the time a new listing appears.

However, the quality of the photo is the key. Good photos showing happy children attract families to read the descriptive material. A bad photo may cause families to bypass the listing entirely. We've had cases where a child with a poor photo received no response yet when a new quality photo was substituted, inquiries suddenly came in.

But while photos may attract families to read the narrative portion of the photolisting, people still need to read between the lines and ask questions as many of these children have issues that are often not included in the web listings due to confidentiality or personal privacy concerns. Nobody writing listings wants to put any information on line that could embarrass or humiliate a child with his or her peers so emotional and behavioral issues often go unaddressed except in the special needs severity. If a child has severe or moderate issues, families need to learn up front what the reasons for that listing may be. By addressing the issues through e-mail or phone discussion, families and agency workers can decide if the family is a potential match and avoid missing a good possibility because someone is scared away by a term or situation they might misunderstand without discussion. Often, children may carry a diagnosis, but have made great progress in recent months and be ready for adoption by the right parent(s).

As to who is listed, our region lists all children that do not have potential adoptive matches locally, or with families who have already submitted home studies for other youngsters and seem appropriate for new arrivals to the adoptive program. This means the listings will usually be older children, sibling groups and children with medical, emotional or behavioral problems. Most young children have many waiting possibilities locally and usually enter adoption through the foster to adopt route. As to the currency of listings, they vary greatly with some photolistings updating infrequently and others updating daily. Any interested family should start the process by finding out if children of interest are still available. That can usually be done by e-mail to the posting website contact.

The bottom line for our photolistings is that they are very effective. Hundreds of children in loving families today were originally spotted on the Internet.

A question then, for parents and professionals:

Are adoption photolistings effective? How can they be more effective? Do you agree with Bill?


Blogger Susan said...

Another texas caseworker:

I concur that they can be quite effective; especially good photos of happy kids. I also agree that a great photo can sometimes "blind" people to what a child's real issues might be. I do think it is a very effective tool. As always, more staff in all areas could make it more effective.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Kathleenb said...

We adopted a sibling group of four; we found them on a photolisting - but I searched and went more by age ranges, likes and dislikes, and severity of issues listed than by pictures.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Todd, an adoption physician remarks:

The problem with photo listings... People fall in love with a picture, without knowing anything about a child's health, a la the Pavlis case, where a mother fell in love with pictures of two children, one of whom she would eventually beat to death- he had FAS, RAD, etc. I'm just uncomfortable with marketing children, like they're puppies. Hopefully, implementing the Hague Treaty guidelines will cause source countries and agencies to more fully disclose salient conditions and illnesses in their listings. Then, hopefully, we'll be able to do a better job educating prospective adoptive parents, regarding those conditions. Adoptive parents need to have both eyes open, during the process.

If we solve the problem with international adoptions, what are we going to do with the disturbing dearth of information seemingly available for foster children and domestic adoptees? The Hague won't help us, there, and HIPPA, coupled with bureaucratic turf problems, will continue to block the flow of vital medical and psychological information.

4:57 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Kelly, mom of 17 says:

In my experience, many of the photolistings are outdated by the time they're made available to the general public. Or, the workers don't seem to be overly interested in finding adoptive families for the children on the lists as evidenced by a failure to return calls.

Many families have been turned off by the lack of communication about the children or the fact that many of the children are already placed in pre-adoptive settings while their pictures remain on the photolistings.

I think the best approach to making these lists more effective might be to have workers whose purpose is to facilitate the lists. Quick responses from workers would help potential adoptive families through the process in a timely and efficient manner. In addition, it would be helpful to have the lists be as current as possible - with current bio and contact

These photolistings have a strong potential to help children and parents meet and find lasting family relationships, but only if folks are willing to work to make them successful.

4:57 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Patty, another state photolisting worker, reports:

Photolisting the children is the most successful recruitment effort for harder to place children that we use.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Barbara Holtan says:

Almost 7,000 children who have appeared on in the last almost four years are not there anymore because they have been placed! Yes. Photolistings work!

4:58 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

A Texas social worker, who wants to remain anonymous, states:

They are effective- however- they do not accurately represent the children. As in the case of the TARE- we cannot list anything negative about the kids and unfortunately many of the CPS kids that are being adopted have some psychological issues. I think that some of the disruption could be prevented if we could write and accurate description of the children.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Amanda, adoptive mom to 17, says:

I don't think that adoption photolistings are necessarily effective. Many of the children are not available for adoption, some are pre-identified for placement already. Having said that, we did adopt a sibling group we saw on an out of state photolisting.

How can they be more effective? Give needed information to study ready families via passwords, etc. I understand protecting the child's information, but I feel that it wastes my time and the workers time if I don't get important information up front. Get rid of the middle man. Some places have so many people in between the photolisting and the worker. It takes a very long time to hear back from a worker.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Think Tank Moderator said...

Alissa, recruiter in Florida, comments:

Photolistings are effective. Whether or not they are effective in a good or bad way depends on the quality of the photo. Heart Gallery photographs that capture personality, insight, and essences of our waiting children are the most effective. Regular photolistings could be more effective if it is a RECENT (as many photos are not updated regularly as they should be, so are years old) photo, as well as one that does not look like a mug shot or haphazard picture. If potential parents can see that we invest in our kids enough to provide quality, current pictures, they are more likely to look closely at the child.

5:24 AM  

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