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'Internet Adoptions' Raise Question of Baby-Trading

Brazil Web site places 'at risk' children

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It wouldn't be surprising if the following news raised a few eyebrows: Children, usually over 4 years old but sometimes less than six months, are available on the Internet.

But what sounds fishy actually is a publicly sponsored program designed to help child-seeking families around the world link with Brazilian children, some of them street kids, who need an adoptive home.

The idea of posting children's pictures and basic personal information on the Internet, along with information on how they can be adopted, occurred last year to Siro Darlan de Oliveira, a Rio de Janeiro child-and-juvenile judge. With years of adoption experience behind him, Mr. Darlan thought the Internet option could help reduce the initial adoption steps, perhaps cut out the expensive middlemen families often resort to in locating a child, and reduce the time families spend - and children wait - to see their dream realized.

"The idea is simply to facilitate the bringing together of people who feel a deep need," says Mr. Darlan. But the program has been more successful at raising critics who say the idea puts a wrong-headed emphasis on children as the "offer" in the process, than at placing them in adoptive homes.

The Internet program was implemented last fall, amid what adoption officials in Brazil say is high interest since the early 90s among foreigners, especially Europeans, in adopting Brazilian children. So Paulo state recorded 214 foreign adoptions alone, down from a high of 468 in 1994.

An on-line adoption newsletter called Rainbowkids also features a photolisting of children, usually from Russia, needing homes. It is not affiliated with any governments or adoption agencies.

"None of ours was an 'Internet adoption' strictly speaking," says Darlan, although several children who appeared on Rio's child and juvenile justice home page have been adopted. "In those cases [the family and child] didn't meet that way," he adds, "but you never know who is encouraged to pursue an adoption because of what they saw on the Internet."

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