Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Useful or Creepy?

This website offers a unique service for adoptive families.  Under the heading of forensic art, they will do age regression photos of a child who does not have any baby pictures.  And they will do photo composites of what an adopted child's unknown birth parents might look like.  Under the above photo montage, the website says:
This child was adopted and had no photos of her biological parents. We created a representation of what her mom and dad may look like. It has given her some closure.

Some of the stuff on the website seems really creepy -- age progressions of a deceased loved one, so you can see what they would have looked like if they had grown older.  Ick.  Yes, forensic science uses age progression to help find missing children, but to represent what dead people would have looked like if they lived?  Ick.

The baby picture thing, and especially the birth parents thing, strikes me as harmful and dangerous for adopted children.  Yes, children without baby pictures may yearn for them.  Yes, school projects that ask for baby pictures may be hurtful for the child who doesn't have any.  Yes, not knowing what your birth parents look like is painful and frustrating.  But this is a case where the remedy is worse than the injury.

The first rule for adopted parents in talking about their children's pasts is TELL NO LIES.  Even if you explain carefully that these photos are not really real, how can a child grasp this?  And even if the child understands that the birth parent pictures may or may not look like their birth parents in real life, it won't take long for the brain to fix that photo as "my birth parents," instead of "maybe what my birth parents look like and maybe not."  This is why I used black silhouettes to represent birth parents in my kids' lifebooks -- I didn't want to use any random Chinese people, because I knew the kids would internalize those pictures forever after as "my birth parents," no matter what I had to say.  These specially-created photos would have the same effect, but even more so when they seem backed by "science,"

So what do you think?  Would you use this service?

18 comments:

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

No. And I vote creepy.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Creepy. Definitely creepy.

Anonymous said...

You are right on, the child will fixate on those photos and think they are the real thing even if only subconsiously. What happens when they really meet them? How do they reconcile the two?

I agree that advanced the age of a missing child is one thing, trying to create possible birth parents or baby photos makes no sense.

travelmom and more said...

I think for an adult this may offer some interest. I wouldn't purchase this for my child for all of the same reasons Malinda suggested, but I can see how this might be of interest to an adult who understands that these are possibilities. A lot of people like to create composites of what their children might look like, why not the reverse?

Von said...

You're right it's dangerous and potentially damaging.We have enough problems imagining our parents and if we're lucky seeing photos or eventually meeting.To be someone without those chances given an invented image is like being given another identity which isn't really us.Creepy for adults too.Vote..No

Michele in ATL said...

This is not a service I would use. Children who view the world very literally like mine would view these composites as the true-life representation of b-parents, which could be very confusing. We have always provided our daughter with full disclosure about her adoption and abandonment but this is different, these photos are a just someone's representation not factual information.

triona said...

CREEPY. Definitely. I am also concerned that some adoptive parents might use this (unintentionally or, less scrupulously, intentionally) to fuel misinformation to the adoptee. There is more than enough of that in the adoption world without adding to it.

If I'd been presented with something like this as a child I definitely would have internalized it and felt upset when later information disproved it. I was chatting with a fellow adoptee the other day about how frustrating it is trying to get your information. You think you know something and come to terms with it emotionally, then you find out some social worker or agency made a mistake (again, intentional or not) then you have to repeat the whole process all over again. After a few rounds of that you start to distrust ALL information. I can see how an adoptee would feel incredibly betrayed by generated photographs like this even if it was explained that the photographs are simply a possible likeness.

suz said...

This makes me feel sick to my stomach. I vote very creepy.

What will society dream up next to replace biological families?

I am tempted to send in a picture of my daughter and see what they would sketch me as.

This really sickens me on so many levels.

Another way to make money off of adoption, another way to eff up our children, another way to try to fix the damage adoption does...

bleck.

Mei Ling said...

Creepy, man. Just creepy. Once they see that image, it'll get stuck in their minds as what the reality "should be", and that wouldn't be right.

*is going to check it out to see how it works...*

Mei Ling said...

ETA: Can't "try" it without contacting... just realized that.

So my overall comment... no. Just no.

Meredith said...

I don't see how it can really work- sometimes kids look like grandparents- I don't look like my parents at all- so not only creepy but possibly not even realistic. If it worked that way, wouldn't siblings all look alike? Doesn't make sense.

Elaine said...

Another vote for creepy. I'm tempted to send in my photo and see if they can 'get' either my parents or my baby pictures. But NO no no for my girls.

Lost and Found said...

Aside from CREEPY with a capital C, there is nothing forensic about those photoshopped photos on the site. On top of, if you are going to try to reconstruct what parents may have looked like, I severely doubt the poverty stricken people of my daughter's homeland would be wearing suits and other western clothing. There is nothing normal about this.

Victoria said...

Definitely creepy. In a way, I think it negates the real, live parents that are out there (and who probably don't bear any resemblance to the composites anyway).

Anonymous said...

While it would be completely inappropriate to present a child with Photoshopped "baby pictures" or "photos of birth parents," I don't think that an adult who sought out such photos as part of her own grieving process was automatically creepy.

It would depend on the situation, and what the photos represented to that person. This is especially true of someone who has little to no chance of meeting her birth parents. It might sometimes be helpful to have a visual representation of what they may look like, no matter how speculative or unrealistic.

I can also see how an age-regressed photo could be a nice thing to have for someone (again, an adult) with no other baby pictures.

Grief causes people to do things that may seem creepy or hard to understand. If a grown person who is fully aware of the problems with and limitations of these images finds some comfort in them, I don't think I could judge.

Mahmee said...

Uh, that is freaking nuts. (I prefer to get right to the point...ha ha). But in case that wasn't blaringly clear...no way in freaking heck would I ever have that done for my child. If she wants to go down that road as an adult, more power to her but, I'm not gonna be part of that magical mystery tour (that's not so magical).
M.

Anonymous said...

I just wonder how realistic it is. It seems impossible.

I'd like to send my own baby picture to see if they can predict either what I look like now or what my parents look like. (I was not adopted, so I could see how close they get.)

Deep down I know it's a scam, and I don't want to send them hundreds of dollars to try it out. But it's hard not to be curious.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, horrible. And likely not very accurate. So many kids I know look like a virtual clone of one of their parents, with maybe a hint of the other. Very few appear to be an equal blend of both mother and father. This service can't be anywhere close to accurate. You are paying for a guess.