Are Adoption Photolistings Ethical?

Adoption photolistings feature pictures and descriptions of children who are waiting for adoption. These photolistings are most often seen within the foster care system. The photolisting may feature a recent photo of the child, a list of attributes, and a description of the type of family in which the child might best fit. There has been much debate on whether or not these photolistings are ethical. A lot of the uneasiness lies in the perception that photolistings are too much like advertisements and do not take into account the right to privacy for the child.

An adoption photolisting site looks very much like browsing a catalog for items that are on sale. The pictures of a smiling child with a glowing description to outline their best qualities, in short, to make them more marketable. Adoptive parents search through this catalog to find the child they like most simply by a picture and an embellished description. This perception alone would make anyone feel uneasy.

Aside from the disturbing marketing qualities, photolistings often divulge too much about a child, not taking into account their right to privacy. Many of these children are often school age and have to deal with other children knowing that they are in the foster system. These photolistings may also mention special needs and other private information that a child is simply not old or aware enough to consent to this practice. Many of these photolistings are on the internet and will continue to follow a child as they grow and are more aware of this invasion of privacy.

There is really no question that adoption photolistings are not without fault. The invasion of privacy and the marketing nature of these listings is clearly not sound and even could be described as unethical, however, adoption photolistings work. While the marketing approach seems unsettling, raising awareness is one of the few productive ways that children are adopted, especially older children. Photos are a tool that is used to ignite an emotional response. When a prospective adoptive couple sees a child’s photo, it tugs at the heart-strings. The glowing yet sob description can elicit sympathy and a call to action.

These photolistings don’t just exist because it is the only option. They exist because the creators of these listings know that they work. Even though it might seem obvious that these listings are not fail proof, it is a matter of balancing negative and positive. The pros of a child finding an adoptive family simply outweigh the unethical platform through which this exposure is achieved.