Today the use of social networks is the “norm”. However, it is a new forum for those affected by adoption… allowing us to “find” each other on social networking sites and staying in touch can provide both positive and challenging experiences. Before using social media as part of your adoption journey, it’s important to educate yourself on the pros and cons of such a venture. Contact your adoption agency to see if they have a policy on the use of social media.
The recommendations below are divided into four sections. The first addresses things to consider before deciding to pursue your adoption search through the Internet and social networking sites, the second focuses on developing a plan for post-adoption contact that addresses whether everyone involved they are comfortable with social media as a way to connect. The third section provides recommendations for parents of older adoptees and the fourth section shares general recommendations for all parties. This document was prepared to address both the adoptive family and the biological family.
The internet and social networking sites are definitely awesome ways for prospective adoptive parents and prospective birth parents to connect with each other. Additionally, these same locations allow all parties to stay in contact if they “mutually choose to do so.” This is the key. Are all parties comfortable being connected through social media? Have all parties discussed this with each other before the connection occurs?
I. Guidelines for Intended Adoptive Parents and Intended Birth Parents Who Wish to “Meet” Online:
1. Before you start looking for information online, share your plans regarding making connections with an adoptive family or birth family on social networking sites with your partner, if applicable. It is important that he or she is as interested in selecting this as a viable way to make an adoption plan.
2. Discuss your plans with your adoption agency representative. The agency has both professional and personal experience with adoption journeys across the World Wide Web and can educate and support you through the process, as well as help you navigate potentially risky situations.
3. If you’re a current social media user, before you delve deeper into your adoption journey, you need to rethink the ways you use social media sites. Do you currently share your sensitive information on your profile? What kind of posts do you usually do during the week? What kind of political or humorous statements or links do you tend to post? If someone searched for you and isn’t currently a friend of yours online, what might they see on your site? Recognize that you may want to use these social networking sites differently than you have before.
4. If you are not currently a user of social networks or are not a frequent user, familiarize yourself with these sites and forums before using them to begin your adoption process. There are many characteristics that need to be understood regarding the different ways of communicating. Some communications are considered private or public, and users are often confused as to which method they are using. Please familiarize yourself with the privacy settings on each social networking site and be aware that these sites often change the settings.
5. Social networking sites allow immediate communication between parties, sometimes such communication can be exciting at first, but it can also be misunderstood, unwanted or overwhelming. To really get to know each other, it is recommended to rely on other forms of communication. Use the agency as a meeting place, or set up a phone call or meeting at a restaurant. It is important to continue valuing personal contact.
6. Email communication while still an electronic connection is a bit more private and personal. Email addresses can be configured for this type of communication only.
7. Consider using private websites and blogs before engaging in adoption searches through social networking sites.
8. Once you’ve been “matched” (whether through a social media connection or another more traditional way), be careful when sharing the news in a public forum because a match isn’t an adoption until a match occurs. placement. In addition, comments that respond to your ad are available for others to read, and you may feel comfortable or uncomfortable with those comments.
9. Be careful not to share birth or adoptive family information, particularly in public postings. This is important because it will ultimately become your child’s story and once it goes viral, it will no longer be private or your child’s story to learn from you as they grow up.
10. Sharing photos and videos is a very good part of the social networking platform. Be aware of who will have privacy to view them, and perhaps review your privacy settings or share these items more selectively. Sharing photos is something all parents should consider, not just adoptive parents and birth parents. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing photos of your kids publicly, choose to send them through other online sites with a private invite only. Sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kodak Gallery, etc. make it easy to upload and selectively share photos. Of course, you can also email and send photos by mail. Printed photos are still an amazing gift to share with each other and may very well be part of the requirement set by your adoption agency and the parties involved in the adoption.
Many of the suggestions above will prepare you for the next section related to creating an open adoption plan or Post Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA).
II. Guidelines for adoptive parents and birth families when creating a PACA:
1. Prior to a child’s placement, it is important to begin discussing the type of communication you would like. These wishes will then be placed in an agreement known as a PACA. PACA stands for Post Adoption Contact Adoption. Included in this document are your wishes regarding sharing and receiving letters and photos. It is also recommended that you indicate whether you wish to contact us by email.
2. Your adoption agency can really help you establish an understanding in your PACA regarding the type of communication all parties expect to have after placement occurs. Social networks can be something added to the PACA.
3. It is important to remember that communication through social networking sites is public, and things that we thought would be private may end up being seen by other people. Inviting one another to be “friends” on such sites also opens you up to share more identifying information than you previously felt comfortable sharing. Adding this topic to your PACA is recommended.
4. If you receive an unexpected “friend request” from the birth/adoptive family or the child or child’s relative, first contact the agency for support and advice before responding. There are ways to have contact by redirecting that person to a private email, to a phone number, to a social worker from the agency, etc., to have a more direct and more personal contact.
3rd Guidelines for Parents of Adopted Seniors:
1. If you have older children who use social media, they should be instructed on how to use it if they want to participate in the search for their biological family members, as well as if they are contacted by members of their biological family in this way. Discussing such things before they happen will allow for a more meaningful dialogue and will better prepare you and your child in case these things happen. Being prepared will help you deal with any challenges should they arise.
2. If an adoption took place some time ago and you have only now chosen to connect through social media, connect with your adoption agency. If you no longer have this resource, find another adoption professional to discuss this form of contact before you get involved. Prepare your child and her partner and other family members who may be affected by this type of communication.
IV. General recommendations for all parties involved in an adoption:
1. Connecting socially on networking sites exposes each party to the daily events of the other person’s life. This can be positive, overwhelming, or difficult to learn so much about another person. You may learn things you didn’t intend or even want to know, so consider whether it would be healthy to accept a friend request or send a friend request to each other. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t worry about sending the wrong message. Setting boundaries early on will help you form a stronger, healthier long-term relationship. You are not saying that you don’t want to be connected, but you are saying that you want to be connected, but not in this way.
2. Social media communication is forever, so consider what you post before posting, especially if it relates to the adoption process, the adoptive/birth family, or your child.
In conclusion, connecting and maintaining adoption contact through social networking sites is new and exciting, but it can also be overwhelming and challenging. It is “intense” to have this kind of direct and immediate contact and if this is the route that both birth and adoptive families choose to follow, it is important to know that you have support available through your adoption agency.
It is also imperative to remember two key points: Are all parties comfortable being connected through social media? Have all parties discussed this with each other before the connection occurs?
Michele Fried, STAR Adoption