Monday, 21 June 2010

Social media risks in adoption

Social media sites, such as Facebook, could pose a serious threat to families involved in adoption. The ease in finding and contacting people through social media sites is already having an impact on many adoptive families, and has the potential to affect many more. Young people are using the internet to trace and contact their birth parents and other birth relatives, while birth relatives are using it to trace their children. While information about birth relatives is important for adopted children, unplanned and unsupported contact through sites like Facebook, by-pass the safeguards that are usually in place. This could cause disruption and upset to a family, and in some extreme cases present a real danger to the child.

While there can sometimes be positive outcomes from contact via social media there are also a number of risks, including:

• A child may not fully understand why they came into care, and therefore not understand the danger they are putting themselves in;
• A birth parent may be unprepared for, and unable to deal with an approach from the young person;
• Some birth mothers belong to a family or community where sex outside marriage is taboo and so may have kept the pregnancy, birth and subsequent adoption a secret.

However, we recognise that social media is here to stay – we can not put the genie back in the bottle. We need to learn how to deal with it in relation to contact issues with birth families. We strongly urge adoptive parents to familiarize themselves with social media, so they are able to talk to their children with confidence about all the issues.

The use of social media needs to be incorporated more generally into understanding the importance of a child’s curiosity about their origins, and how this changes over time. Adoption agencies have developed great expertise about this, and social networking needs to be incorporated into that expertise. Adopters and adoption agencies need to become tech-savvy so they can talk with confidence while recognizing the natural curiosity and the need for information.

As part of their internet safety campaign, we have published a guide called Facing up to Facebook, to help adoptive parents get to grips with social media and the risks it presents.

We are urging social workers to familiarize themselves in all of the aspects of social media so they can support adoptive families. The charity recommend that the issues are discussed in preparation classes; that social workers advise adopters and young people of the risks of tracing through the internet; and explain the benefits of contact through an intermediary. A detailed guide has been produced for professionals, along with a conference in London at the end of this week.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...