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Facebook Changing Adoption

Most of you know someone who is either adopted or who has adopted a child.  It can be quite a daunting experience for everyone involved from the couple who are being assessed to adopt a child, the birth parents whose child is being taken away and of course the young child, whether they are babies or toddlers, who are being moved to their ‘forever family’.  Many years ago, adoption used to be a thing of great secrecy with no contact with the birth family and although this has changed considerably, the modern world of social networking has and is changing contact within adoption!

Due to social sites such as Facebook, adoptive children and birth parents are making contact with each other, sometimes without the knowledge (or permission) of the adoptive parents or even social services.  Although some of these connections being made will turn out to be successful, a lot of them can cause more harm to everyone involved particularly those where there has been no contact whatsoever; these restrictions are usually put in place for a very good reason!

There are many reasons why a child is adopted but the majority of those reasons are put in place to protect the child.  It could be that the child has come from either an abusive or neglectful home and in such cases, social services do their best to restrict or control any form of contact whether that is direct or indirectly with letterbox contact.  With Facebook, a birth parent could gain access to information on their child (or their new family) at the click of a button and in the same respect an adoptive child could find their birth parent’s profile online and send them a message.

A lot of children do not feel able to wait until the age of sixteen or eighteen to locate their birth families and suddenly finding some information about them online that they did not know could be exciting and addictive to any young person.

An adoption social worker from North Yorkshire County Council, Joan Hunt, stated that she is being contacted by adoptive parents who are concerned about their children making contact this way with their birth families, particularly if they are planning to meet in secret.  Joan along with social workers all over the country are understandably nervous about such cases happening as people begin to panic about their children running away and of course the fact that neither party will have any support during such an anxious time causes concern for everyone. 

It is too easy for these situations to spiral out of control and while a lot of councils are setting up training for their social workers to deal with issues such as Facebook, it will not stop birth families or adoptive children searching online and attempting to make contact this way.

Forms of Contact

Letterbox contact is an indirect form of contact where the adoptive parents write letters to the birth families and vice versa until such age that the child can write the letters themselves.  An agreement is normally set in place before the adoption is final that sets out who the letters will go to and how many the adoptive family will need to write (i.e. just the birth parents or also to the child’s siblings). 

It is sometimes agreed that photographs will be exchanged and in some cases, the birth family will be able to send birthday cards and gifts for special occasions.  These letters are not sent directly to the people involved but instead are sent to the social services letterbox department who then forward the letters on to the appropriate party.  These letters are usually scrutinised for any unacceptable content before being forwarded on.

Direct contact is also possible which usually involves a meeting between the child(ren) and the birth parent(s) or sometimes other members of the birth family such as grandparents.  These meetings can happen in a neutral public place or even, if needed, in a supervised venue.  They can happen once or even twice a year and usually only take place if it is felt to be beneficial to the child.

Contact with siblings who have been adopted into different families, or older siblings who are still with birth parents, can also occur either by direct or letterbox letters.

What is Adoption?

In a nutshell, adoption is where another person, who is not the birth parent of a child, becomes the legal parent of that child complete with all parental responsibilities and rights and as such it is a permanent status where they become a family.

Issues surrounding adoption can be an intense and emotional situation for everyone involved but particularly for young teenagers who on top of dealing with their changing bodies and emotions can feel slightly out of control should they come across their birth family online, they can open up new possibilities which can unfortunately, in some but not all cases, cause them to experience stress and heartache. 

For parents of children concerned by these issues, while it is not always easy or possible, you should try to monitor the security features not only for their computers but also for their personal ‘pages’ online.

As with any online networking system, where young children are concerned there will always be a security risk involved and using Facebook as a means of connecting with birth families is probably not a good idea.  There are plenty of systems set in place to support and help people affected by adoption to go about these things the right way!