Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Sticky World of Social Media and Birth Parents


A common situation that adoptive families are facing these days is relationships with birth parents on social media sites. We get a lot of questions from adoptive families such as, what do we do when our child wants to search for their birth parents on Facebook? What do we do when our child’s birth parents search for them? How much contact is appropriate? How involved do we need to be as adoptive parents?

This is all uncharted territory and there are no “rules” regarding this type of contact. Adoptive parents, children, and birth parents alike are able to log on to Facebook and other social media sites and search for each other with a few key strokes. This can bring about many emotions, questions and problems as they all try to navigate this new world and their relationships. 

This article discusses all of these questions and gives practical advice for dealing with Facebook and relationships with birth parents. The hardest situation for many adoptive parents is when their child wants to start searching for their birth parents. It is very normal for children to be interested in finding more information about their birth parents but it can be very difficult for adoptive parents to come to terms with. Here are a few tips for adoptive parents.
  • Talk openly about adoption and your child’s birthparents in your home. Provide opportunities for your child to ask questions about their adoption.
  • Use your discretion regarding if this type of relationship is appropriate for your child. This is a very personal decision. 
  • If your child is interested in searching for their birth parents on social media sites, first decide if your child is emotionally ready for the search and if it is safe for them to do so. Prepare them for a variety of responses that they may get. This can be a very confusing and emotional time for them. 
  • Search with your child if possible and stay involved. 
  • If your child’s birth parents have searched for them, determine if this relationship is appropriate. If so, stay involved in their developing relationship. Monitor their social media usage and set guidelines and boundaries. If the contact is not appropriate, talk to the birth parent yourself and explain why contact at this time is not appropriate. Set boundaries and enforce them.
For more stories and suggestions about relationships with birth parents on social media sites, check out the following links.
What is your experience with social media and the adoption world? Do you think you and your child should have relationships with their birth parents in such a public forum?

2 comments:

StephenH said...

I think we cannot rely on sealing the birth records and adoption records. Social media is here to stay, and that we will need to adapt to adopted and foster care children knowing their real parents while still a child, and that cutting off all contact till age 18 or 21 is going to become a thing of the past. We are going to have to allow the child, especially teenagers in the contact decision making process, and allow changes over time. We also have to accept that the fact that the adoption agency, placing agency, child protective services, and social services aren't the gatekeeper anymore, and a birth parent or child can use social media and the internet to make contact and it will not be censored. If this leads to phone numbers, e-mails and addresses being exchanged, the child may have enough information to make a visit or a reunion, so adopted parents have to be prepared to handle this if it happens, especially with high risk relatives. For low risk relatives, if a visit or reunion turns out well, it might be best to allow the relationship to continue. It is probably best if the child knows their life story, and if they were taken away because of abuse or bad parenting, for them to know the truth by social networking age. Social workers can also discuss the implications of a reunion or visit with the child. Some of these kids even remember their birth parents names too.

StephenH said...

I think we cannot rely on sealing the birth records and adoption records. Social media is here to stay, and that we will need to adapt to adopted and foster care children knowing their real parents while still a child, and that cutting off all contact till age 18 or 21 is going to become a thing of the past. We are going to have to allow the child, especially teenagers in the contact decision making process, and allow changes over time. We also have to accept that the fact that the adoption agency, placing agency, child protective services, and social services aren't the gatekeeper anymore, and a birth parent or child can use social media and the internet to make contact and it will not be censored. If this leads to phone numbers, e-mails and addresses being exchanged, the child may have enough information to make a visit or a reunion, so adopted parents have to be prepared to handle this if it happens, especially with high risk relatives. For low risk relatives, if a visit or reunion turns out well, it might be best to allow the relationship to continue. It is probably best if the child knows their life story, and if they were taken away because of abuse or bad parenting, for them to know the truth by social networking age. Social workers can also discuss the implications of a reunion or visit with the child. Some of these kids even remember their birth parents names too.

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