March 22, 2018

Web Watch

By Emily Miller-Francisco

Clicking on the Web…Increasingly, people are seeking to adopt. Close to 120,000 children were adopted each year throughout the 1990s. Still, adoption remains a complex undertaking. The paths that prospective adoptive parents take today are many and varied, but almost all involve navigating a complex web of information. There is much to learn about both the process and the law, and whether to choose domestic or international adoption; public or private adoption; or infant, child, or teenage adoption. Web sites are an enormous help in providing access to this information.

But prospective parents aren’t the only ones looking for adoption-related information. Parents who’ve already adopted want to find advice and support. Birth relatives want to understand the process, and some hope to reunite with a child that was adopted. Adoptees grow up and want to learn more about their birth parents. And social workers involved with adoption cases may also turn to the web for information.

Entering adoption in any search engine can be overwhelming, since there are hundreds of sites. In this column we look at the best government sites, as well as some of the popular sites, to help researchers begin the process.

The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC)
Date visited: 1/31/03
Developer/provider: Department of Health & Human Services and others

The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC) web site has been active since 1998 and contains a wealth of information on adoption. If it’s not your first stop, it should at least be on the itinerary. It seeks to meet the needs of several audiences including prospective/adoptive parents, adoptees, birth parents, and social workers. It covers essential information such as laws, statistics, directory information for public officials, public and private agencies, adoption support groups, and various national organizations. Some of the directory information is also available in Spanish. In addition, it provides a bibliographic database with citations and abstracts for over 4500 documents, including books, journal articles, and technical reports. The site also lists upcoming conferences. Finally, it includes information that is specifically tailored for different audiences (for example, there’s a reading list for young adult adoptees). The site provides an extensive, annotated list of related links.

The site is relatively easy to use, although there are a few problems. There is a button for the National Adoption Directory, but a directory called the National Organizations Directory does not have a button. To find that directory, you must look under “Databases.” Also, labeling could be clearer. “Publications” really means “NAIC Publications.” If you want general publications, then go to “Databases.” To search the database, select “NAIC Bibliographic Database.” This defaults to a basic search screen with a search box. There is also an advanced search option that allows Boolean searching using several fields including publication year, title, author, keyword, abstract, and document type.

If you have trouble finding what you need, the site provides a nice search engine (it even includes a friendly guide to Boolean searching) and a site map. While this site does not provide photolistings of adoptable children, it does offer links to various photolisting services.

Bottom Line:The essential site for anyone seeking up-to-date, wide-ranging adoption information. As a government-sponsored site, its information is trustworthy. Although the navigation may not be perfect, it’s fairly easy to use.

Adoptive Families
Date visited: 2/13/03
Developer/provider: Adoptive Families magazine

The web site for the magazine Adoptive Familiesis targeted at prospective and current adoptive parents. While the site promotes the magazine, there is a significant amount of information freely available. It has weekly features, often stories of adoptive parents’ experiences. There is also a list of classic articles (“How I Explained Adoption to the First Grade”). Much of the information is practical, such as how to lobby for adoption benefits, tips for adoption travel, and how to deal with a reluctant spouse. In addition to articles from the magazine, the site also provides access to most of Adoptive Families’ 2002 – 03 Adoption Guide, an excellent resource that covers topics from finding the right adoption attorney to getting help with expenses.

Other resources include a searchable adoption agency database with contact information for adoption agencies throughout the United States, including the types of adoptions they handle and how long they’ve been licensed. There are databases of attorneys, state adoption units, and adoptive parent support groups. This site is easy to use, with a clean design, but its coverage is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. It’s best for browsing and becoming familiar with adoption issues.

Bottom Line:This is a great site for prospective parents to explore adoption issues. It’s especially good for quick tips and for information presented in a brief, bulleted format.

International Adoption Information Group
Date visited: 2/10/03
Developer/provider: International Adoption Information Group

International adoption entails dealing with different political and legal systems, and being underinformed can have painful consequences. International Adoption Information Group is a free child adoption service founded to help orphans and parents find each other; it is not an adoption agency. The site is primarily a photolisting service, but it also contains guidelines for selecting an adoption professional and information on the adoption process (costs, time line, procedure, updated laws, paperwork, and much more). The “International Programs” link leads to the U.S. Department of State’s notices and updates on adoption from various countries. Since the adoption situation can shift quickly at a political level, this page is essential for keeping up-to-date.

This site is straightforward to navigate. The options are listed clearly on the left (The Adoption Plan, Selecting a Professional). Most of these links only go one level deep. There isn’t a sitewide search engine, but it’s not particularly necessary since the site isn’t complex enough to warrant one. Photolistings include a brief description of the child, including health status, and links to the agency handling the adoption.

Bottom Line:This is a good introductory site about international adoption. It provides both extensive photolistings and links to sites that provide essential legal and political information.
Date visited: 2/10/03
Developer/provider: Nathan Gwilliam is an immensely popular site – it’s the first result of a search on “adoption” in Google – but it’s also problematic. The site is divided into seven major categories for navigation based on specific audiences such as Pregnant and Considering Adoption?; Hoping To Adopt?; and Birthparents, Adoptees, and Search. Hovering over these buttons produces a menu of subtopics. The layout is colorful, cheerful, and inviting. The wealth of information behind these buttons is impressive, although many link to sites outside of In the center of the page, there are some additional options, including a section called “Resources.” This is what will probably be the most useful to librarians since it includes the “library,” “laws,” and “stats” links. The “library” is an extensive list of online articles from various sources, unfortunately listed by source not topic.

In using, it often seems that you’ve left the site when you haven’t. The site is actually a conglomeration of subsites, with names such as and Many are branded by or by its sister site, Adopting. org, which has a slightly different look but is managed by the same person. In addition, the navigation is somewhat disorderly because the site attempts to provide too much information on its top two levels. Furthermore, the labeling is often unclear. The site also serves as a portal to a huge number of other sites, so any user will have to make wise use of the “Back” button to return to site is also heavily commercial, with many distracting ads.

Another major problem with is that there is no clue as to the creator. After doing a search with Google, I found a page from that’s not currently linked to the site. This page tells the story of the site’s owner, Nathan Gwilliam, a former missionary who was moved by street children he met in Brazil to create

Bottom Line:This site has a commercial feel and confusing navigation, although there is value in the breadth of information collected. For more savvy searchers.

Alternate Sites

Many patrons look specifically for photolistings of adoptable children. AdoptUSKids is exclusively a national photolisting service for children awaiting adoption across the United States. A U.S. Children’s Bureau – sponsored site, it was begun in 2002 and features a database of children who are currently in foster care. It is easy to use and searchable by gender, age range, race, and maximum size of sibling group.

Adoption Exchange
NAIC: State Child Welfare Agency and Photolisting Webpages
There are excellent regional sites that can help anyone in that area seeking information on adoption. Since laws vary greatly from state to state, it’s important to look at the information available locally. Adopting in your region is also helpful if there’s an intention to continue contact with members of the birth family. A final benefit is that you can become familiar with the adoption community in your area. For example, patrons in the Northwest would want to consider Northwest Adoption Exchange. There are many other regional and state sites that provide local information and photolistings; check out the list on NAIC: State Child Welfare Agency and Photolisting Webpages.

Adopting on Your Own
The American Association of Open Adoption Agencies
Human Rights Campaign Family Net: Adoption
Pact: An Adoption Alliance
Lee Varon, author of Adopting on Your Own(Farrar, 2000), has a web site that is a great resource for single people: it covers myths, things to consider, and resources. Prospective parents interested in open adoption should visit The American Association of Open Adoption Agencies. This bare-bones site has both useful information and links. Gay or lesbian couples considering adoption could begin with the Human Rights Campaign Family Net: Adoption site; it covers the various options, the adoption process, legal issues, and recent news. Finally, transracial adoption has its own set of issues. Pact: An Adoption Alliance is focused on nurturing healthy, stable adoptions, particularly when the adoptive child is a person of color.

Author Information
Emily Miller-Francisco ( is the Electronic Resources Coordinator, Southern Oregon University Library, Ashland