Monday, May 17, 2010

The Impact of Social Networking on Domestic Infant Adoption

With the increased popularity of social networking websites, comes a whole new group of considerations for those involved in the domestic adoption world as it becomes almost impossible to maintain complete privacy.  Not to say that complete privacy and anonymity is required in adoption-I believe just the opposite in most cases.  But there is a time and place for everything.  From an adoption agency's standpoint, it has made our job easier in many respects:  we can often "find" birth fathers to notify them of a potential adoption plan, we can reach out to establish communication with birth mothers who have lost their connection with the agency, and we can reconnect with birth and adoptive families who have moved and forgotten to provide the agency with updated contact information. 

These websites have become our "go-to" tools for locating people and allow us to both gain and verify information - however, there are many things that must be considered by birth parents and adoptive parents who choose to participate in social networking.

First of all, let me say that there is nothing wrong with having a social networking page, connecting with others through social networking, etc. as long as it is done responsibly, honestly, and carefully.  We have many adoptive families and birth parents who decide that these connections are the most practical way for them to stay in touch on a regular basis through short comments, photo sharing, etc.  However, we have other groups who find that this is an area of their lives that they would rather not involve in the adoption relationship and choose to continue to use conventional means of communication (visits, phone calls, email, letters).  It must be a personal choice, yet one that you consider given your very own adoption situation.

Below are some practical tips for birth parents and adoptive families to help you enjoy the benefits of social networking without the added stress.

  • Make all privacy settings restrictive so you have as much control as possible regarding who can gather the information that you make available to others.  Ensure that you must "approve" any individual who wishes to gain access to this information. 
  • If you allow your page to be "searched" on the site, keep in mind that it may not be difficult to find your page by searching your first name and general geographical location.
  • For birth parents, only post pictures that you would be comfortable with the adoptive family and child viewing and vice versa.  Keep in mind that posts made by you or others reflect on your character and don't be afraid to delete things posted by others if you feel they are questionable.
  • Choose a setting to keep your photo albums private so that only your approved "friends" can view the photos.  This is often an overlooked setting and may be totally separate than the privacy settings for the rest of your profile.
  • It is not uncommon for an adoptive family's extended family or friends to make friend requests of the birth mother, etc.  Be sure that any "new connections" between both families are disclosed and agreed upon by the birth parent and adoptive parents. 
  • For adoptive parents, also be respectful and mindful of other birth parents that you may know through adoptive family connections.  Be careful not to step on toes or overstep boundaries.
  • Remember that there is no way to completely protect information about yourself on the internet.  Therefore, if you feel really nervous about your information being available, social networking may not be for you at this stage of your life or adoption process.
With the increasing openness between birth parents and adoptive families, networking can be a great tool and can be very beneficial to each party.  However, it is best to have an established relationship on which to launch from into a social networking relationship.  I do recommend that "waiting adoptive families" and birth parents in the process of selecting an adoptive family make these personal connections by other means until all parties mutually agree to opening up their social networking pages.  Feel free to share other questions or ideas about this topic, we'd love to learn from you too!

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