Going online to find babies for adoption


Trend emerged in last 2 years as fewer babies are up for adoption

With fewer babies to adopt here in the past decade, some people are turning to online forums to look for a baby or give their child up for adoption.

On popular parenting website Singapore Motherhood, dozens of posts on adoption can be found.

They are mainly from prospective parents, such as one that went, "Hi, I'm desperately looking for a baby to adopt and I'm willing to pay for medical costs".

This trend appears to have emerged in the past two years and echoes similar trends in countries like the United States and China, as the demand for babies exceeds supply globally.

Some childless couples here told The Straits Times they are going online in search of babies, in the wake of a declining supply of babies available for adoption through agencies here.

Agents here say there are now fewer babies from Malaysia and Indonesia - where most of the foreign-adopted babies are from - for Singapore couples to adopt.

Among other reasons, this is because foreign middlemen are less keen to work with Singapore agents, as the authorities here demand more documentation, such as details of the financial transactions.

Besides, few Singaporean babies are given up for adoption. Social workers say most unwanted pregnancies are terminated.

The number of children adopted here has halved, from a high of 731 in 2004 to 358 last year.

Women interviewed also cite cost and ease of mind as factors for taking their quest for babies online. Some said they cannot afford the $20,000 to $28,000 fee that adoption agents charge.

Others do not feel comfortable using a commercial agent as they are not sure of the child's parentage or how the child is obtained for adoption.

Jane (not her real name), a 30-year-old executive who is childless after six years of marriage, went online to look for a baby recently. She said: "I feel it's not right to pay $25,000 to $30,000 to an agent to adopt a child. It's like buying a baby."

Lawyer Shone Aye Cheng said it is not illegal to find a child to adopt or to offer a child up for adoption through these online forums. However, it is against the law to pay the birth parents for giving their child up for adoption.

Under the Children and Young Persons Act, offenders can be jailed up to five years, or fined up to $10,000, or both.

However, the adoptive parent can reimburse the birth parents for visits to the obstetrician and hospital delivery bills, Ms Shone said.

Still, Fei Yue Community Services senior social worker Cheng Wenshan, who works with adoptive parents, say these online forums could lead to a slippery slope where people produce babies for sale.

She said: "The safety of babies is at stake if people can easily adopt a baby or place a baby for adoption through online means."

Last year, Nora (not her real name), a 40-year-old housewife whose only son died five years ago, posted a message to look for a baby to adopt.

Several women contacted her and asked for between $10,000 and $20,000 for their babies.

One unwed mother in her 20s even asked for $20,000 to settle her credit card bill and other debts. When Nora declined, she lowered her offer to $15,000.

"The first thing these women say is how much they want, instead of asking me how well I would care for their child. I don't want to buy a child," Nora said.

Birth mothers may also change their minds about giving their child up for adoption after the baby is born, said Ms Shone.

There is little the adoptive mother can do, except to sue to get their money back.

Mary (not her real name), a 44-year-old childless businesswoman, met a jobless woman through an online forum.

The woman had agreed to give her baby to Mary after the child's birth. The woman is married with one child and cannot afford to feed another.

She asked to be reimbursed for all her hospital bills related to the pregnancy, which amounted to about $15,000. But after she gave birth to a girl in March, she told Mary that she could not bear to give her baby away. Mary has yet to get her money back.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a Ministry of Social and Family Development spokesman said: "Using online forums to put a child up for adoption may make parents more vulnerable to potential risks such as fraud or manipulation by ill-intentioned individuals or groups."

The ministry encourages parents to go to its accredited agencies, such as Touch Family Services and Apkim Centre for Social Services, for help in areas like matching the child to adopters.