I didn’t come up with the title to this post. Adoptly did, and I don’t know what to make of it, or whether it’s real or fake. I also don’t know what to make of Adoptly’s promotional video that describes its app and seeks $150,000 in Kickstarter funding. Honestly, when I first started watching the video I thought it was a digital short from SNL, complete with a cadre of beautifully earnest people marketing a service that you laugh at once you get to the punchline. I waited for the punchline. I wanted to hear the laugh track.
Except the punchline in this venture appears to be serious. And the punchline is this: swipe right if you are interested in a baby, swipe left if you are, well, not so much. As Adoptly’s marketing director says, swiping for children is “easy, intuitive, and even a little fun.” Take a look yourself.
At least one tech blogger has already blasted Adoptly’s Kickstarter campaign and has essentially condemned it, not only criticizing the unnecessary Tinder-like UI function but also expressing a sense of “overall wrongness” for the service. Another blogger isn’t sure it’s real, calling the Adoptly video and setup “indistinguishable from parody” and questioning if the reps in the video are actual people, let alone Adoptly employees. And some now think that Adoptly may be a fake app along the lines of a prior app called Pooper, otherwise known as “Uber for dog poop.”
Update: While not confirmed, I’m fairly certain Adoptly is a hoax. Or, if it is real, it should obviously be a hoax, for the reasons I outlined below in my original post. In addition, there is absolutely no social media presence for the company, the only company registration is for a defunct LLC in Colorado (not in California, where Adoptly claims to be based), and none of the alleged principals in the company have any actual online presence.
I honestly don’t know what to make of it, largely because—if it is real—it is but one example of the continuous commodification of adoptees. And there’s a long history of that, from babies being displayed in store windows in Washington, D.C., to Georgia Tann’s stolen babies being splashed across the front page of newspapers as part of her annual Christmas adoption appeal. International adoption agencies fare no better (if not a lot worse), and even AdoptUSKids, backed by the U.S. Children’s Bureau, maintains online children’s profiles from which to “choose,” though these are of much older kids in foster care, suggesting at least some agency of the kids themselves.
Ultimately, Adoptly appears intended for potential adoptive parents who, it can only be assumed, maintain a strong millennial gestalt and don’t like the complex slowness of getting a child. Except that those complexities are built-in and, from what I can tell, not diminished by online or mobile search apps. You still need a background check. You still need to be approved. All adoptions, at least as promoted by Adoptly, occur only through government-licensed adoption agencies. Which begs the question: how does a Tinder-influenced swipe function speed up that process, except maybe to make it “fun?”
That’s the rub, and I actually don’t see Adoptly as an adoption-related Tinder knockoff, other than its rather creepy swipe function. Ultimately, it may signal a shift toward a model like Uber. And that may be the ultimate problem. While implying the app makes adoption “easy, intuitive, and even a little fun,” it’s potentially an unacknowledged swipe against regulations that protect birth parents, adoptive parents, and children. And while Adoptly says it plans only to facilitate fully-licensed adoptions, I don’t foresee how a future of Adoptly-related knockoffs will maintain such an allegedly pristine purpose. In that respect it’s really nothing new, but rather an update on a business model that has existed since at least the days of brokers and babies in downtown storefronts. If, of course, it’s actually real.