New Ways to Check Out Kids Pre-Adoption

ByABC News via logo
August 13, 2001, 6:28 PM

N E W   Y O R K, Aug. 14 -- Adoption fairs, where children and potential parents mingle, make 11-year-old Brichelle nervous.

"I don't like being watched all the time and then people whisper a lot about you and you don't know what they're talking about," Brichelle said. "If it's bad or it's good."

Victor, an athletic 10-year-old boy who has been in foster care for nine years said he attends the fairs with just one wish.

"I only want a dad, so he could take me out to the batting cage," Victor said. "I've been to a lot [of the fairs] so I don't feel that nervous."

Adoption fairs are basically parties designed to unite potential parents with children who are difficult for adoption agencies to place. Experts estimate that about 120,000 children are adopted annually in the United States, 31 percent fewer than in 1970, which saw a peak of 175,000 adoptions. More access to contraception and abortion, along with societal acceptance of single mothers has reduced the number of available babies.

Many potential parents want infants, but it's harder to find homes for the older children, children with emotional or physical disabilities, or groups of brothers and sisters who come to the gatherings hoping to find a family to grow up with.

Are they Meat Markets?

For older children who understand the gravity of the fairs, they can cause disappointment and heartbreak. And some critics say the fairs are meat markets that may do more harm than good. Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, for instance, did away with the fairs over concerns of children being marketed.

But Carol Yelverton, public affairs director for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, disagrees.

"We understand that there's a lot of trauma around this for many children who go to these events," she said. "What we're finding is that these adoption parties work. They account for 10 percent of the matches that we see. That, to us, gives validity to the process."

Yelverton does, however, acknowledge that the fairs can be difficult for children hoping to be adopted.