Pictures of real children in need of adoptive parents were posted on the Net for the first time Tuesday.
Six children, ranging from two to ten years old, made a direct appeal for new homes from the pages of Derbyshire County Council's Web site. The council hopes this move will prompt more people who are thinking about adoption to get in touch.
Pictures of children on the Internet are unfortunately often more associated with child pornography and some are worried that paedophiles could misuse the images. According to the chair of Derbyshire social service committee David Allen the council "thought long and hard before taking this step and talked to the children whose pictures are used before deciding to go ahead".
Despite the concerns, the council remains convinced the appeal is a positive step and stresses that people attempting to get in touch about any of the children on the site will go through rigorous adoption procedures. "These are ordinary children who through no fault of their own find they need new families. We hope using pictures will boost interest in their appeal," says Allen.
Around 20 children in Derbyshire are in need of a new family. Beneath their pictures the children give descriptions of themselves and what they want from a new family.
Jacob has been living with foster carers since May 1998 and describes himself as "quiet and shy" but with a love of football. "I'd love a large family with other brothers and sisters," he says.
In the UK, there are around 10,000 children in need of adoption. While American adoption agencies are increasingly using the Internet to reach a wider audience, this is the first time a UK agency has turned to the Web. Leigh Chambers, spokeswoman for the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering believes the Derbyshire trial is a good idea. "Derbyshire has not been able to recruit suitable parents from its own area and is using the Internet to widen the net," she said. While she accepts the images of the children may be manipulated or exploited by paedophiles she does not think that is reason enough not to go ahead with the scheme.
Chambers believes it is too early to say how successful Net-based adoption campaigns will be but already hundreds of prospective callers have contacted Derbyshire social services offering its children new homes.