In follow up of my research on adoption (please see details) I would like to initiate a debate in order to raise greater awareness and bring about a policy change with regards to the use of children’s photographs on various adoption websites and with the hope of an eventual ethical shift and policy statement in relation to this matter.
I believe that the current practice of posting children’s photographs on various adoption websites violates their privacy and basic human rights for the following reasons:
1. There is no ethically valid reason why the prospective parents need to have an immediate visual image of the child, except to guide their selection based on children’s appearances. This is not far from catalogue shopping for a “picture perfect family”. There is much evidence that choices made/influenced by appearance run into complications further down the line. It is instead more appropriate to have a clear interest on the part of possible prospective parents and to ensure that there could be a match between the child’s needs and what the family can offer before sharing the children’s photographs.
2. Images of children on the web serve to perpetuate the discrimination in favour of white children.
3. These children are often at an age that they are not able to provide consent and/or understand the full and long-term implications of their pictures being posted/circulated on the web.
4. Considering that the information and images posted on the web can hardly be fully removed from the public domain afterwards, posting of children’s photographs on various adoption websites violates their right to privacy in an almost irreversible manner.
5. Individuals (both children and adults) at times do not wish to reveal that they were adopted, and it is, and should be, their choice and privilege whether to reveal that information. How can they have that choice once their photographs have been openly posted and paraded on various picture galleries on the web?
6. We will never think of posting the picture of an adult who is facing a crisis, or in need of assistance, or is homeless, etc. on the web without their explicit permission and informed consent. Given the irreversible impact of such postings on children’s privacy and life narrative, why do we think that we can make such an important decision on their behalf?
7. There is no doubt we must find these children a home and family in the most appropriate and immediate manner. However, instead of open posting of children’s photographs on the web, would it not be better to provide a textual description of the child and his/her background and only after an expression of interest and concrete possiblity of matching the child with a prospective family then share their photographs with that specific family.
To increase the number of adoptive parents we must raise general awareness with regards to the current situation and the challenges and difficulties faced by these children as well as our collective social, ethical and moral responsibility toward it.
Such a campaign could be quite effective and definitely much more ethical than the picture galleries of “waiting children” on the web or the parading of children in “Adoption Fairs” where children literally walk a runway as they are presented to prospective parents. Current practices have significant and lasting impact on children’s psyche and identity, and are tantamount to commodification of children’s affect.
We must develop much greater regard for children’s dignity and integrity as well as their fundamental human rights.
The varous organizations and their websites that engage the noble work of finding families for these children should find equally noble means and noble ways for achieving their noble goals.
If you are in favour of legislation and/or policy to stop the exploitative posting of children’s photographs on the web and to regulate the current practice, please join us on our LinkedIn group at http://tiny.cc/rhe3j and/or express your support by adding your comment here. You can also join my new twitter account (http://twitter.com/claudiamegele @claudiamegele) to express your support.
We can change the status quo if we join forces.