Site eases adoption process

A Texas state agency is using its Web site as a way to reduce the time children wait to be adopted

Three years ago, when a Texas state agency launched a child adoption service by posting photos on a Web site, the adoption rate improved and the agency was commended by then-Gov. George W. Bush.

Since then, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services revamped the site (www.adoptchildren.org) in November 2001, adding more information about the children, including their developmental, physical, emotional and medical needs. The site, which lists children 6 years and older, posts a child's first name, gender, ethnicity, personal profile, his or her desired family profile and whether he or she has any siblings. Prospective parents can even view a video of a child if available.

The site, which has a database of about 850 children, has since been getting about 3,000 unique hits and 20,000 page views a month, said Sean Toole, an associate partner with Accenture, which helped revamp the site. "That's pretty good considering this is a fairly specialized Web site," he said.

About 400 children are on target to be adopted this year, he said. Last year, the figure was about 340. In the first year, about 260 children were adopted with help from the site.

Toole said the agency, which accepts children based on involuntary circumstances, such as abuse, neglect, if parental rights have been terminated or if parents are deceased, was focused on cutting down the time children wait to be adopted. The process usually takes more than a year, but the Web site is helping to reduce the time by providing full disclosure of the child's needs.

Full disclosure lessens any emotional trauma for a child and prospective parents when they meet, Toole said. In the past, if prospective parents met a child but became disinterested in him or her, then it might be "very traumatic and very sad" for that child whose expectations may have been high, he said. The agency wants to make sure prospective parents know everything about a child before meeting him or her, he added.

"If you're not ready to take on these responsibilities, don't get started," Toole said. "They're trying to reduce their rate of people walking away from the process."

The state agency initially paid Accenture, which has done work for the agency previously, $43,000 through a grant for a conceptual design plan for a revamped site. When agency officials realized they could not afford to redesign the site, Accenture decided to do it for free, in essence donating about $180,000 in time and manpower, Toole said.

"If we were going to make a contribution back to the client and back to the state, this is where we were going to do it," said Toole on why Accenture decided to donate its services.

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