The answer to whether AI can help the adoption process is almost certainly yes, but many New Jersey adoption lawyers are measured in their optimism. Trial runs in various states have largely been unsuccessful as of 2023 with perhaps the exception of Family-Match in Florida. AI cannot predict human behavior, and while AI-powered predictive analysis most certainly can be a powerful tool for adoption agencies and social workers, there are implementation challenges and ethical concerns that must be overcome.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
AI is a computer field with a primary goal of solving cognitive problems that are often linked to human intelligence. While the term AI can evoke heady sci-fi concepts, it is generally much more mundane in practice. Consider a social worker who must evaluate potential foster families for a hard-to-place child. It can be an enormous task, and if AI could effectively pare down the decisions to be made, the social worker could be much more effective and efficient in finding matches that work. Adoption professionals have long used software tools to match preferences. AI is ideally more than that. In this context, it is, according to one expert, the usage of science to predict long-term success.
The Adoption-Share Example
Thea Ramirez is currently at the forefront of this discussion. She is the CEO of the non-profit Adoption-Share, which developed an algorithm — one of the few adoption algorithms on the market as of 2023 — based on research conducted for online dating. The name of the algorithm is Family-Match, and, while there was a great deal of optimism for it initially, that appears to have been short-lived.
Tennessee canceled its trial run prior to launching it due to incompatibilities with its own system. Georgia, which is where Adoption-Share is based and, as far as what is known, provided it the greatest access to state-controlled data, ended the trial within a year. Virginia made the largest financial commitment to the nonprofit, ran a two-year trial and then opted not to continue with it.
Florida is the one state that continues to use it beyond the trial run by funding it with taxpayer money. But Florida is an interesting case. The child welfare system there is privatized. Neither the agencies that use the algorithm nor Adoption-Share itself are forthcoming with data, and an AP investigation revealed widespread dissatisfaction among the social workers using the system.
What Are the Ethical Concerns?
One of the core ethical concerns is access to private information and how algorithms use that data. The AP investigation revealed that Georgia allows Adoption-Share to track gender, sexual abuse and whether a child identifies as LGBTQIA+. Such information is generally tightly controlled and restricted in how it can be used. The AP also found that in Tennessee, the algorithm asked potential families if they were “unconventional” or “uncreative” and whether they “seek God’s help.” Social welfare advocates have expressed concerns that, as a society, we are using children as guinea pigs and that these tools may worsen racial disparities in the adoption process and discriminate against families.
A More Positive Outlook
The concerns and failures associated with Adoption-Share reinforce the need to methodically implement AI into the adoption process, with checks and balances in place. That said, there are already tremendous successes with AI within the business world that should provide us hope. One of the great challenges of the adoption system is the mountain of information that there is to climb, and AI, when used in a calculated and ethical manner, can allow people to focus on the human decisions that really matter.
Legal Help for Adoption in New Jersey
If you need legal assistance with adoption and are located in New Jersey, Cofsky & Zeidman is here to help. Our law firm has extensive experience navigating both private and agency adoptions. To schedule a consultation with one of our New Jersey adoption lawyers, contact us online, or call our Haddonfield office at (856) 429-5005 or our Woodbury office at (856) 845-2555.