exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in

Advertising in Adoptionland: Does a photograph tell the adoptable child's full story?


A recent press-release shares the good news about the use of photos when appealing to the hearts of prospective adopters.

The shots were "uniformly bad," Granito said.

She knew they had to be better if people were going to be drawn to adopt the children.

Granito, the adoption events manager for New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department, asked some of the state's most talented photographers to help capture the beauty and spirit of the state's foster children. A large-scale art show at a local gallery would help spread the word, she thought.

This weekend marks 10 years since the first exhibition of the Heart Gallery. There are now 130 different Heart Gallery organizations around the country, and two recently started in Ontario, Canada.

Granito recently launched a national organization, Heart Gallery of America, and hopes to expand in Europe.

That first exhibition of the Heart Gallery broke gallery records, drawing more than 1,200 people to Santa Fe's upscale Gerald Peters Gallery in a single evening. On display were 50 various-sized photos of children who had been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and were looking for their forever families.

"When I walked into that gallery and saw all those beautiful portraits looking at me, I knew we were on to something," Granito told Reuters.

"The portraits were so powerful, I knew we were going to help these kids step out of the shadows."

Indeed, six children were matched with families that first night, including a group of three siblings and one child who was adopted by a photographer who was asked to take portraits.

Within a few years, news of success stories began to spread. Heart Gallery officials say 5,000 children have been adopted as a direct result of the photographic portraits.

[From:  Heart Gallery photos have inspired adoptions for 10 years, June 5, 2011 ]

While I understand there is a need to make these adoptable children more visible to potential care-takers, I myself am not that fond of the use of child photography as it is used to help advertise an adoption dream, a la an adoption agency.  There are too many problems that can result with this approach, putting a child in-care, or a child already at home, at an increased risk of future harm and danger. Some of the problems I see relate to and include locations of such exhibits, the closet pedophile's own 'special interests', misleading imagery (leading the PAP into a false-sense of what to expect), and the profit factor all too many people tend to forget each time an adoption plan is initiated and requires the paid services provided by adoption lawyers, bureaucratic paper-pushers, and social workers who may or may not know a thing or two about long-term child safety.  All of these are factors can either aid abuse prevention programs or impede abuse prevention programs created for children put in already poorly monitored care-systems.

In terms locations and access to these exhibits, from what I read, gallery exhibits are open to the general public and can be seen in venues like shopping malls, where any person can visit.  The suggestion being, anyone and everyone can be a foster/adoptive parent.... all that is needed is a little heart-tugging inspiration.  This leads me to the dangers of such an open suggestion, where a closet pedophile's private special interest(s) may get piqued, whilst shopping for new clothes and home goods.

Home-study reviews and post-placement sexual abuse and sexual exploitation cases found in the PPL pages prove that which gets reported by the candidate and social worker is not necessarily what will serve a child's best interest, especially if a child is considered "special needs".  While I consider all adoptees children with 'special needs', this term is clarified by those advocating adoption programs.

The children are described as having "special needs" because they are the hardest to find families for, Keiser said. Most are teenagers or older children; some have siblings; and some have emotional or physical disabilities.

Each picture also includes a biography of the child. One of the children loves to play football and another wants to be a doctor. Still another wants to be a star on a Nickelodeon television show.

[From: Pennsylvania Heart Gallery raises awareness of adoption needs, June 8, 2011 ]

One must seriously consider what this type of gallery exhibit can do to one who longs to be with a child, in an intimate sexual way, and how this type of exhibit mimics what is seen on adoption websites, found on the Internet. Furthermore, one must seriously consider what abuse studies/investigations, like The Ryan Report, say about the chances of a 'special needs' child getting sexually abused.

children with bad hearing, eyesight or learning difficulties were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

[From:  Staff preyed on children with disabilities, 2009 ]

In regions where more attention is going towards post-placement wellness for the child, some ministries have gone so far as issue a formal statement against inappropriate presentation methods that have made sensitive information about children in-care accessible to those not authorized to interfere with the search and selection process that approves eligible and interested adult candidates willing to serve as foster/adoptive parents.

Some entities have released the information on the Internet in an effort to attract potential foster families.

However, the ministry says putting the information on the web makes people erroneously believe that anyone can pick any child on the Internet or in the press and apply for the kid to be entrusted to him/her as an adoptive or foster parent.

People's reactions to the information have been often based on their momentous emotional constellation.

"Spreading of information about children who do not grow up in their own families on the web, in the press or other media has an irreversible and negative impact on their privacy and can harm them for the rest of their lives," Miloslav Macela, head of the ministry's department for family and welfare systems, said to explain the position issued by the ministry.

[From:  Ministry bans release of info on kids free for adoption, 2011 ]

If one is going to work on behalf of a child's best interest, it would be best not to reveal information that could make a vulnerable child easier prey to those with less than kind, responsible, and noble intentions.   

Wooing prospective adoptive parents with a charming image and sweet/endearing biographic account can far too often lead a PAP into a false belief of normalcy and health, one that may not be part of that child's reality.  For instance, learning disabilities cannot be seen in a photo.  Certain mental disorders and dysfunctions/syndromes caused by poor prenatal care or post partum neglect and abuse may not be evident on a child's face.  Behaviors seen in brief meetings or interviews may in fact be coached responses to help aid the sell.  All of these factors need to be considered, when choosing an adoption agency and falling in-love with a photo of a child that will help create or complete a family.  I have often likened the use of photos in adoption ads as a way to lure future clients as a ploy used by dating services found on and off the Internet.  In fact, the scams seen in Adoptionland and 'Net-dating are so similar in nature, it's almost laughable due to it's predictability.

In many cases, the victim will not only have lost out financially, but will also be left broken-hearted and thoroughly disillusioned. These scammers tend to prey on victims that may be especially lonely, shy or isolated and therefore more vulnerable.

There are a number of variations on the same basic scam. In some cases the scammers may be the one to create a profile on a dating site and wait for a potential victim to contact them. Typically, the profile will include a photograph of a very attractive young woman who will have no trouble attracting would-be suitors.

[From:  Internet Dating Scams, 2007 ]

In the adoption-story, however, the image that's being sold is home-life, complete with a child and family... not an attractive adult who may or may not make a good room-mate or sexual partner.

by Kerry on Sunday, 05 June 2011