President John F Kennedy was our first “television president.” Prior to him, the only way the public could experience a president’s speech was through radio or newspaper. Some historians say JFK won the 1960 election after the first televised debate versus Richard Nixon. JFK just looked better. That’s the power of the visual. Photolistings use that power.
Before the age of the internet, adoption agencies used to employ something called “Blue Books” which were huge 3” binders for photos and brief descriptions of kids who were free for adoption in your area. Now, with internet photolistings, we can view dozens of photos and profiles with just one click. A photolisting is a web page that shows photos of children who are looking for an adoptive family. These children/youths are usually older, are in sibling groups, or have physical or developmental disparities. Adoption agencies list these children with a court-ordered release.
You can tell a lot about a child through one simple photo: the eyes, the smile, the way the child is groomed and presents himself. If an adoption agency is creative enough, they will use a variety of different backgrounds with the children engaging in a variety of different activities. The photo is supposed to draw you in and spurs your imagination so that you make an emotional connection. This will lead you to the second step.
The profile is a short bio on the child. It presents only basic information on the child. An adoption agency does not put any information about birth families on the website, and only minimal information about the child to protect everyone’s privacy. There is enough info in the profile to start a mental file on the child, including: first name, ages, strengths, and talents, whether they are legally free for adoption, and any disqualifying information such as, “should be the youngest child in the home” or “should be placed in a two-parent home.” Finally, there is contact information that should be followed up on by the family’s social worker.
The Follow Up
This is the most important step in the photolisting. If interested, the family’s social worker contacts the child’s social worker for more information. These social workers then exchange the family’s home study and the child’s personal information. The child’s social worker peruses the home study to ensure the family can meet the needs of the child. The family, with the assistance of their social worker, reviews the child’s information to make sure there are no red flags. If both parties agree to proceed, then next steps are chosen, which differ from state to state, county to county.
An adoption photolisting search can be fun. It can also be frustrating if there are unrealistic expectations. But with the right guidance, and with the correct information disclosed upfront, this process can turn from a simple photo to a placement in a forever family for a child.