What issues do you need to think about when using social media as an adoptive or foster parent? What issues do you need to consider for your teens and tweens as they engage in social media? We talk with Katie Biron, Director Fostering Connections for Families and Program Manager of the Family Connections Program; Laura Jean Beauvais, licensed professional counselor with New Wind Counseling; and Dawn Friedman, a licensed professional clinical counselor with supervisory designation at Building Family Counseling about handling social media with adopted, foster, and kinship children.
In this episode, we include:
Some of the most popular social media platforms include:
Social Media pre-adoption
Social Media as an Adoptive Parent
Social Media as a Foster Parent
Social Media with Adopted/Fostered Teens
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Please pardon the errors, this is an automatic transcription.
Welcome everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport your host as well as the director of creating a family. And you can find all the great materials that we have for you at our website creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about the the sticky wicket that is social media. We love it, we hate it can drive us crazy. But today we're really going to be focusing on handling social media as adoptive foster or kinship parents. We will be talking today with Katie Byron, she is the director of Fostering Connections for families and Program Manager family connections program. We will also be talking with Laura Jean Beauvais. She is a licensed professional counselor with new wins counseling. And last but certainly not least, we'll be talking with Don Freeman, she is a licensed professional clinical counselor with supervisory designation at building family counseling.com. So let me start by saying, you know, social media is really has a lot of benefits, it's a great way And quite frankly, many people's preferred way to stay connected and to access information. But along with the many benefits that social media brings to us come some challenges. And I think that's especially the case for adoptive Foster and kinship parents. And although this seems somewhat redundant, I do think I think most people know when we talk about social media what we're talking about. But just to make certain that I will say that the most popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, tik tok, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Reddit. So the way we're going to structure this interview is we're going to start by talking about social media as prospective parents pre adoption. And then we're going to be talking about social media, as adoptive parents. And then we'll move to talking about social media, as foster parents. And then we're going to end by talking about social media with adopted and foster teens, and how we as parents can help them negotiate the pitfalls that social media can bring. So that's the so don't get anxious, if your question is, that's the format we're following. So if you're really interested in the last thing, you just gonna have to hang around and get all that great information that we'll be providing along the way. So I want to start by talking about the pre adoption period. And if for no other reason that I think it's really important for pre adoptive parents to realize it states have varying laws on matching, and on matching online, as well as advertising for expectant parents. So you need to know what's allowed. So with that cautionary tale, you can get yourself into trouble if you're not clued in ahead of time. So largely, I want to start with you. How much information can you or should you post after you have been matched with an expectant mom during your pregnancy?
That's it. Um, I think it depends on who you are, and how much you're even comfortable in posting about yourself. But I would say in general, that we all want to be very, very cautious about what we're putting on our Facebook pages, and maybe even on our friends, what our friends are even posting or relatives because the truth of the matter is, is that expectant moms in their, in their extended family, say an expectant mom's mom or the or the quote unquote, birth father, biological father, they may be also looking at what's on your posts. So even even though we would recommend not becoming friends, say, for example, on Facebook, that during this time, because there's all sorts of ramifications to that, but other people and other people from there could also be looking at your, at your Facebook posting. So I think that and I say Facebook, because that's what I'm most familiar with. But again, as you know, there's so many different types of platforms on which you can be. So I would highly recommend that you may want to quote unquote, clean it up a little bit as to what you're putting out there. And then in addition to that, a lot of identifying type of information that may be you may not want shared on there or about other relatives of yours, etc. Again, it's probably pretty much out there anyway to begin with. But again, as if you're expecting to go into the adoption process, this may be a good time to say, how does it or have even a friend look at your postings and say how does this present to someone because you don't want anyone to misconstrue who you are. And and then also just the privacy again of your of your children who may already be in the home and also again of your other relatives and even your friends regarding that.
Well, what about posting in a sonogram pictures I mean, that's the If you're matched in the pregnancy, what when they expect it Mom is pregnant? She very well may be sharing your thrill This is you're so excited. And you may want to post largely now offer this. When do then I'll expand out to the rest of you.
Yeah, well, having worked with an agency for years, I know their policy is that you're not allowed to go ahead and post anything in the pre finalization phase, as we know that expectant moms and birth families, they can go ahead and change their minds during a pregnancy. And so it is a bit unfair to everyone really involved to go ahead and be making these types of announcements very publicly. So we really recommend not befriending an expectant mom. And I use that term broadly, when I say expectant mom, is I realize there's other family members, and there's and there's also the biological father, but wanting to go ahead and say it probably is best not to go ahead and do that. Again, I would consult with your agency, if you're working with an attorney consult with your attorney, that that probably is not a really good idea to begin with now, saying all that the expectant mother may post that. And she's pretty much allowed to do what she pleases regarding that baby at that point. So yes, right. Exactly. Exactly. And and if if she chooses to do that, yes, I would say it's every right that she has, but yes, as as adoptive parents, even if your agency did doesn't have a policy or your attorney doesn't have a policy, it's still very prudent to be very cautious in that area.
JOHN, is it okay to snoop on unexpected family or birth family online pre adoption?
You know, that's interesting. It comes up a lot in the all adoption meeting, whether or not it's okay to, and I'm using air quotes here stock, the either the birth family or their adoptive family, depending? And the answer is, if people are putting things out there publicly, you are certainly allowed to look, I think it's important to recognize you may get information you're not prepared to have and they didn't mean to share. But I think it's, it's pretty difficult to ask someone not to look if it's there. So I think, okay, it's the wrong word. I think it's more, yes, some of us, some of us are going to do it. And again, we may find information we're not prepared to have or they didn't mean to share with us. And we need to think about those ramifications when we do those things,
and know that they're going to very, very likely be also snooping stalking or less use a less inflammatory word, looking at your social media as well. Yes, absolutely. Yes. Katie, should you at Laura Dean had mentioned that that she would discourage people from friending expectant moms or our extended family of the expectant mom or dad, pre adoption, what are your thoughts on that?
I think you just need to be really sensitive, both in this pre adoption place, and then post adoption that the formation of your family is coming through another family's greatest loss. And so it can be very difficult for a expectant mom to see something on your page, for example, that is like, We are so excited. We're welcoming baby girl in August, and all your friends are saying she's so lucky to have you you guys are going to be the best parents. I mean, how would that feel? Yeah. Someone who is placing a baby because of circumstances that are that are very difficult. And so I think that is a nuanced question that you need to look at through a lot of different lenses. And I think it kind of leads into our next topic too, about how to announce a child remembering that that is coming. A family is being broken to create your family. And that is just the nature of adoption. And so absolutely, it's a wonderful thing for your family. But just posting that it's all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and wonderfulness I can only fathom would be very hurtful for a family who is now suffering a huge huge chasm in their family formed through adoption.
Well, that does bring up the question so how when and if to announce for the adoptive parents The baby has been placed with you. Usually if it's domestic infant that baby in this and we're really talking at this point more about domestic infancy for now. But last time we actually it's possible that it that it could be a pre adoption of a child from foster care as well. So but you as a family are excited you want Your extended family and your friends to know that your family is growing. So and since you raised it, Katie will start with you. How should you announce it, wanting to be cognizant that your is particularly maybe if you haven't printed them that you could expect that the extended family, by by birth would not necessarily be at knowing. But on the other hand, if you have a very open and you have invited lots of people who you don't know, you may well be friended to these people and not even know it.
I think this is pretty nuanced. I think whatever you post, look at it through the lens of all the different people of the triad, are you putting a ton of information out there about their child, your child, like a picture of them, and I've been in foster care for 157 days, or whatever would your child as a teenager, is that something that they feel should be celebrated, that it took 157 days to terminate the rights of their first family? So I think you just have to, it's hard. This is kind of your lot as an adoptive parent, it's different. It's different. And I know if you give birth to a baby, you can post anything you want. There's not all these nuances to consider. adoption is different. And so you have to figure out if I were the expectant mom, if I were the grandmother. And I'm wording this in a way that feels supportive to them, too, because this child is now a part of two families.
Exactly. Any other thoughts lard gene, or dawn on the announcing?
I just think there are ways to navigate around that. And because you're right is this is a child and you want every child to feel special. And so there is a way of actually having more private groups, even if even if they expectant or later on and when the child's placed with the adoptive parent, the birth mom, that there can be a shared experience among certain people within a private group. And that's what I highly recommend, again, as as mentioned before, is, as Katie was saying that, how when you when other people make other comments, how is the expectant birth mom, how is she and her maybe even her family are going to go ahead and proceed. Now even within a closed group, there can be obviously insensitive remarks made or even marks that seem very congratulatory that still can sting you coming from from another angle. So I that's the way that I would go ahead and approach it. Because you certainly do want to whether we're talking about even infant placement, or even other types of placements, that there is the celebration of life and of adoption. And we certainly want to keep that element there. But perhaps it needs justice be done a little bit more privately than you would on regular social media. And I think even people moving forward even within biological families, other parents are taking more caution in what they provide out there regarding their children.
One of the things I'll add too, is if you do already have an open relationship with some birth family members, this is a discussion you can have with them. You're building a long term relationship. And so often I get adoptive parents who come in and say, I don't know what to do, should I share this? And and because she might see it, and I said, Well, you could ask her, you can start having these conversations. Now in setting up boundaries, they may tell you that they want you to announce it. And they're just going to hide that for a time. Or they may ask you to block them from that announcement. But I know in when I was counseling a birth mother that she really wanted to see that because she wanted to see her child welcomed and celebrated. So we can't make assumptions about what birth families might be thinking when they read those things. We can ask them,
I love that. When in doubt, bring it up, you're going to have a relationship with this. Now this is assuming you will have a relationship. But we do know that that sometimes we don't either because it's a closed adoption and an infant or it's adopting through foster care. And the for whatever reason they have discouraged or the the birth family is not wanting the relationship or the caseworkers are discouraging that. But dawn, do you have some tips that pre adoptive parents can use during this period that could protect the privacy more? Well, I
think it's really tricky because we I'm sure we all have stories of a time that Facebook hiccup, then everything opened up. So I think more to the point you should assume that you cannot protect your privacy as much as you want. And it's something I also tell parents a lot is there's no such thing as closed adoption anymore. Especially with things like ancestry.com even adopting overseas people are finding each other and So I think you need to assume I cannot protect privacy as much as I like, unless I have something like a closed group text. And even then someone on that group text may say, Oh my gosh, I'm going to go share this around. So So really, I don't have any tips because the technology is moving so quickly. And it's so complicated.
And even if you erase something, or you delete something, there are ways that once it's out there, there are ways that if people want to, there are ways that they can find it even after you have deleted it. So it's just something to be aware of. Something that we'll be talking more about when we talk about how we can help our tweens and teens navigate this. Let me pause a moment to tell you about a free educational resource. Thanks to our partner, the Jackie being Family Foundation, we are thrilled to offer you free online courses through creating a family.org learning platform. When you go to Bitly slash j d f support, that's bi T dot L y slash jbf. Support. You could say five courses, including seven core issues and adoption and foster care to equip you with more expert based information related to today's podcast. Each course is free when you use the coupon code jpF strong at checkout. And don't worry, if you don't remember the coupon code JPS strong it is on that website we sent you to Bitly slash jbf support. Alright, now I want to move into talking about the adoption is complete. So you are now an adoptive parent. Let's talk about social media, as it relates to that this time. And I'm going to say up front, that we will not be covering the general parenting topic of whether parents have a right to create a digital footprint at all for their child. that's a that's a separate topic. All right. So, Katie, how much of your child's adoption story should you share online?
I would say pretty minimal. That is something that you really need to protect for your child. And it's your child's story. And so as your child becomes older and becomes an adult, if they want to tell their story on social media on all those channels we talked about that is completely 100% there, right. But it's not really, I think we need to be cautious about what we're putting out there about our child about their, their first family. So I would say not much. I know it can be very tempting. I know, as a new mom, I wanted to share everything I wanted to tell everybody about this wonderful, baby. And fortunately, at that time, although I'm now feeling old, social media was
right there with you. When mine were little, I didn't have all these things to think about.
Exactly. Um, so I think you you just want to be cautious. But also being aware that the parent, the first parent may share their story too. And then it's their story. And it dovetails with your child's story. And so it's it's nuanced, and it's complex. And I would say limit, if possible.
Okay, this is how it sometimes comes up. The parent wants to say, Oh, you know, this, Johnny came to us and he could he, you know, he could barely, you know, he weighed 15 pounds at a year, and he could barely sit up. Now look at him at a year and a half. And he's chubby, and he's running. And so that's one way can come up. And and another way that I see it come up, is you know, through hashtags, trauma, parenting, hashtag trauma, parenting, or hashtag rad or, you know, when a parent is, is, is sharing something either sometimes good or sometimes even negative. So it comes up and kind of subtle ways. Or it seems so to me, it dawn, any thoughts on those on the more subtle ways that parents could be disclosing information about their child and their child's background?
I think we really need to ask parents and I'm including myself here as an adoptive parent, we need to ask ourselves to be reflective and what is our goal in sharing these things? Sharing a child's diagnosis could have long term ill effects for them, because then people see them as their diagnosis. So I really, really caution this. I appreciate that parents may want support, and certainly they deserve support. There may be safer, more respectful ways to get this maybe looking for an offline in real life meeting where there is an expectation of confidentiality. Or I know in COVID, that we are getting more online meetings and there's more flexibility. But again, where there's an expectation of confidentiality, I know when you have a young child, it seems like they are going to be a baby forever, they're going to be a child forever. They grow up very quickly. And they have opinions about how they want to present themselves to the world. And we need to be preparing ourselves, to allow them to take over their own narrative and look for ways we might be blocking that unintentionally.
Excellent. Laura Jane, another issue that comes up with for adoptive parents, is how much the child's birth parents and extended family also likely have a social media presence. So how much of that social media presence that they have? Should we share with school aged children and younger and I, I separate that, because the reality is for kids who have their own access through their phone or computer to the internet, they're going to be looking and finding it on their own. So let's focus on maybe younger children. And you as a parent are seeing, you know, pictures of birth family? And how much of that should you be sharing with your child? And does it matter? Obviously, it probably does, depending on whether you have a open or a closed relationship with the family?
Sure, well, I feel like even very young children, you know, children.
First of all, let
me just say that children are always thinking about their birth, family, their birth parents in particular. And so they really do want to know about, about their heritage and about where they came from. And I see this, even with my clients, my very young clients, even four to six years old, when parents are able to give them something very tangible, such as this is what your birth mother, say, for example, looks like your first mother looks however you want to refer to her. And so you want to go ahead and be able to give them some of that tangible information. And sometimes that can be accessed through social media. Is that is that what you're asking? Don't I just want to make sure that I'm answering the question, as you're saying it. And in fact, I've been recently having these conversations with some parents about, about their knowledge about the children's knowledge on their, about their birth family. And, and I know some sometimes you might refer to it as quote, unquote, stalking. But sometimes the families, the adoptive families actually do that, particularly, again, from children maybe been adopted through the foster care system, that there is not necessarily an open relationship with the birth family, but that that you still have access to those pictures. And so I do recommend that families go ahead, if they're not even ready to share everything with their child to go ahead and download some of that information to be able to later share with their child. And one thing I really do believe is that years ago, again, my children are 30 and 31. And they were adopted at birth, and it was very different. And so some of these issues were not quite issues when when my children were coming up. But I, I feel like you really do need to share with your children just about everything within their heritage, by the time that they reach their young teens by the time they reach, you know, early adolescence. And with social media, I do believe some of that needs to be pushed up, we always want to share with our children as age appropriate about their birth family. And obviously, without denigrating the first family in any way, but yet still be very truthful with the with the child. And sometimes, again, because of social media. And because a child may access that information earlier than we've anticipated that we need to be the first persons to go ahead and be able to share that with our children. So I do feel like it is important to know what's already out there before our children eventually find out what what is there as well. So yes, and I remember very wisely a woman telling me this is when my daughter who's now 33 was baby, an infant and she had a son, who was older, let's when I say older, maybe he was five or six years old. And you know, you have those sort of awkward moments in the grocery store where someone asks you a question about why you don't look like your parents or your child doesn't look like you or whatever. And are somehow the topic of adoption is addressed. And I remember the mom asking her son, she said, I asked him, Michael, how do you what how do you want me to go ahead and answer that question. And sometimes I think we need to even ask our own children as they mature. How do you want? How do you want what information are you comfortable with in sharing about certain facts on social media as we're talking about all this information? So as again, as our children mature, they can be part of the conversation as well.
Okay. A very common scenario that comes up is and this is this more often in an open adoptions are some degree of openness is the mismatch of how the two sets of parents want to handle sharing pictures online. And what I see more often and this is it could go both ways, actually. But a common scenario is the adoptive parent does not share online pics are very limited, but the bio family does. And then this makes the adoptive parents upset. So Katie, thoughts on how to handle this type of, of just disagreements on on just philosophies of how we use online social media.
I think as Don said, having conversations about it talking about it is is really helpful in getting everyone on the same page. But in the end, also realizing that in reality, we don't have any control of someone else's social. The hallmark of parenting is our lack of control. Ask, you can tell you can do all sorts of things. But in the end, we can't control someone else's social media. And so what I would say to adoptive parents who perhaps do have that boundary where they don't, they don't want the first parents showing pictures of their child online? Is the kind of the Hallmark for me is are you applying that to all of your relationships? Do you tell the grandparents, the aunties and uncles, the best friends, that they also shouldn't post any pictures? Or is that a free for all? And this is a bound you're putting on the birth parents? And that's kind of where you you've kind of figured out what why. Why am I treating them differently than everybody else? Or is it consistent across the board? And that's what I would look at.
Okay, excellent. Yeah, that's a very good point, if that. Alright, we talked about friending our accepting friend requests from biological and first families pre adoption. But what about post adoption? It seems like this is kind of a no win in some ways. Because if you accept them, you have it as friends. You have to think through the ramifications there. But you also have to think through the ramifications if you don't accept their friend request. So dawn, can you talk some about the kind of the the muddle that is friending birth family and extended birth family on any social media?
I said, it's such a personal decision, and so much probably depends on the circumstances of the adoption. And there's no clean easy, this is always the answer. These are discussions that we need to be having with our partners. If our kids are old enough with our kids, I know that there are some families who have created special Facebook accounts just for birth family members, I have a client who created accounts for her children just for birth family members, because she wanted her children are adopted from different families, and they have different expectations and values about social media. Again, this is an ongoing discussion, the one thing I will say is that you can mess with your privacy settings a little bit. And it's tricky. And again, Facebook does hiccups, where you can limit access in some ways. So if you're feeling like you want to share a whole lot about your child with the family members, but you don't want to share a whole bunch of about your work life, for example, you may be able to limit that. But mostly, I think we need to think about our reliance on social media. And if we're really feeling like we don't want to share that much with birth family members, but we want to maintain some kind of relationship. Maybe we need to think about how we're using social media, maybe we need to share a little bit less on social media to make it more comfortable for everyone to participate. If that makes sense. It does. It
makes it means that we may have to reassess and that's part of parenting is making decisions that are best part of growing up actually as well that we may have to change the way we have been been doing things. Hey, guys, I know you are listening to this creating a family.org podcast, but have you subscribed. subscribing helps us both good for you because you're gonna automatically see the topics for the weekend helps us because iTunes and other podcasts apps, look at the number of subscribers and deciding which podcast to recommend. So you see it's really a win win. So thanks for subscribing. Alright, and the next topic I want to talk about is seeking help online without oversharing without divulging personal information. And I say that as as as creating a family runs a really large online support group and I believe in In the value that comes from being able to seek support from others who are walking this path, because oftentimes we don't have people in our everyday life, who are experiencing some of the same things. On the other hand, it is our child's story. So how it seems like it's a, it's a very fine line. Katie, do you have some thoughts on that?
Sure, I think you, there's a lot of different options. There are tons of different support groups on Facebook and cluding, creating a family that you can join, and then just watch or look through old posts to try and find quick answers to your questions. But you also there's a feature in Facebook, that's one I'm most familiar with, too, that allows you to ask a question anonymously. Or you can always, one of the best things is to send a private message to the group administrator, and have them ask the question for you. What is also important is to look at your question and what is necessary info you're sharing versus are you sharing the child's whole story? And you really need to talk about this one thing? And so just kind of looking at that, like, Is there a way I can ask this, perhaps without identifying if you have multiple children that child's gender, and just really getting at the heart of your question?
And you're not all groups will accept anonymous questions. But I certainly know ours does. And others do as well. And most Why shouldn't say most actually don't know what percentage of admins will post anonymously but but or that you can use the feature that allows you to do it anonymously. Very good point. And Laura, Jean, one of the questions that we were I we posted actually on the creating a family support group asking what thoughts what questions they have on the topic of social media? And a couple of people asked this question, what if some verb some version of this is that as new adoptive parents, they were excited to join online groups, online support groups, but each group has a very distinct personality, and they felt attacked, they felt not very unsupported in a number of groups, and just kind of had to juggle the ups and downs of online groups in general. But let's say online adoption group specifically.
Yes, I, as someone who is on some of them, and kind of following them, somewhat loosely. Yeah. Sometimes the comments when someone does pose a question, sometimes the answers can feel very judgmental. Kind of like to dovetail on what was just said, also about, what what is out there and how you ask questions you may make up, let's say, again, on Facebook, maybe make up another name for yourself out there. And then when you go ahead and pose a question that you go ahead, and more anonymously, I just think about even professional counseling groups that I like one of them that I'm in and we'd say, Okay, well, we're going to share one of our clients stories, let's go ahead and change some of the scenarios a little bit. So this way, again, people don't know whom we may be speak. That's a good point, you can, you can sell out on private accounts if you ration too, right, exactly. And then, and maybe switch it up a little bit. But it still doesn't take away this thing of what it is like to have somebody criticize you. Let's say for example, parents of children with FA SD, that's fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and watching some maybe someone talk about how they're handling this with their child. And then someone else commenting in a very, again, harsh way it can feel it can feel like a sting, especially when you are working so hard to do what's right for your child, and you're still navigating. And I think that's really up to the administrator to make sure that there's a tone set that the criticism cannot harsh criticism cannot be there. Just suggestions. And I think sometimes if you really do feel like a group is too harsh, then maybe it is time to get off of one of those groups. And I think this is still even true for certain even professional groups that some of us are on. If someone asks a question, and then someone attacks Well, you should already know this. And I'm not saying this has happened. But I'm just saying if something like that word to say or like tone is like, Oh, yeah, that's really obvious. Well, then that does. Again, it feels like a stain. If we do tell people, so I think it is being really sensitive and maybe even coming back and saying, you know, we're all in this boat together sort of speak. Yeah,
yeah. So we always tell people that the truth is groups online groups have personalities have, they really do and sometimes they reflect the personality of the admins and sometimes they reflect loose monetary And so it's more of the personalities of the members. But it is okay to, to sit in a group and then decide it really isn't for you, that's fine. But I also do sometimes think that if you find that there is some value there, assess whether you're good, it's a little thin. If you're taking offense, you're feeling challenged, because you're feeling vulnerable. And if that's the case, then maybe just, we call it lurking, but just pay it don't post for Mayo, don't post for advice specifically for you, but still hang around for a while. And you might find that you can benefit without having over exposing yourself. Alright, now I want to move to talking about social media as foster parents. Now some of the same things we've just talked about for adoptive parents would apply. But I particularly wanted to talk about the issues that are really unique to your position as a foster parent. And also just gonna say up front that the different rules and expertise expectations on social media between foster parents, and that the between the foster child and the foster parent, I should say, is going to be discussed in our last section, which is talking with our adolescents. All right, so Katie, first of all, can a foster parent post a foster child's picture online?
Excellent question. And the answer is, it depends. Stay states different agencies have different rules regarding this. And so this is something that individuals really need to check with whoever is licensing them if you're licensed through the state or an agency and find out what their rules are regarding it. But there is not a flat yes or no answer.
Yeah, talk with your caseworker. I mean, that's just the answer. Because you don't want to go break the rule of whatever your agency is doing. Dawn anything about me? We had talked about adoptive parents getting help online seeking help from groups usually, usually they're close groups. How open can foster parents be about discussing issues online, about their foster kids?
Again, I would encourage caution. And I, Laura mentioned that there are a lot of groups for therapists. And the rules we have in the Facebook therapist group is to post general questions. So you wouldn't say I have a three year old who's wetting the bed who has a history of XYZ and a diagnosis of blah, blah, blah. Instead, you might post any thoughts about preschoolers who are wetting the bed? So you can ask very general questions that protect the privacy of the children in your care, that still get the information that you need. And the rule we have in the therapy groups, is if your client read it, would they recognize themselves? And if the answer is yes, then you've worded it wrong. So by the same token, you could say if if the caseworker we're working with if the, if the birth family, or if the child is an adult recognize this, then maybe you need to reword it, we can get a lot of good information with really general questions that will protect you. And when in doubt, ask your caseworker what resources you can rely on?
Yeah, good suggestion. All right. The next question is, if this goes back to the picture, let's assume that you are allowed on some level through in your state or with your agency to post a picture, but they some states or some agencies require that that you use either a digital sticker to cover the face you see them with hearts or something like that. Or that you crop the picture such that the it's a picture of the family but the foster child is cropped out. That is the kind of a hot topic right now. Online amongst former foster youth as well. And it does seem that both the obscuring the face with the sticker are are blurring the for the more technological blurring it or just cropping for the for those of us who are not so technologically sophisticated? Just cropping the picture? It seems like you're a darned if you do darned if you don't, because you you really run the risk of acquiring the child and making them feel less included. Katie, I think you've had some experience with at least in this area with fostering thoughts on that, from from, how can we think through the the nuances of of othering versus inclusion versus protection of privacy?
Well, first and foremost, you mentioned listening to the voices of former foster youth and I think that is really important to end They're kind of talking about what we just talked about with being in uncomfortable situations or uncomfortable groups, kind of figure out who is talking. If it's adoptees and former foster youth who are perhaps talking and kind of challenging where you're at, then those are really important voices to listen to, and you should try it hear what they're saying? I think it's very, it's tricky. I know, with older kids, I have asked them, Do you want me to post pictures do not want me to post pictures? How, how do you want it handled. And then, with younger children, you can just really get creative. And it may absolutely change what you're used to posting. But this is a conversation also to have with your Facebook friends group, before a child is placed in your home, you're going to say we are becoming foster parents. And here's what we can talk about. And here are the things you can't talk about. Because if you don't have that conversation ahead of time, the first time you post a picture of you holding a little baby, you'll get comments like what's their name? What's their story? Are you going to adopt them and the baby's been placed with you for two hours. So setting an expectation with your friend group, and sometimes I've seen people just write a letter to family and friends and relatives, or just do some education ahead of time of here's how we're gonna handle this. I think that's, that's important before you have a kid placed in your home, because otherwise, all of a sudden, the comments are runaway, and you're having to delete things. And it's just a lot easier to get ahead of it with some education of why because people are well intentioned with this. And but if you've done some, like, education, listening to the former foster youth and adopted, former adopt or adoptees Oh, sorry, then that's going to give you a good basis on which to kind of start.
Yeah, okay, good suggestions are. And one thing you said I want to highlight. And that is, talk if the child is old enough to have an opinion, talk with the child about what they would want, and then try to be respectful of that as well. All right, now moving into talking about how do we help our adopted and foster teens navigate social media? And I think it starts with the question, at what age do adolescents start having access to social media without adult supervision? Laura, Jane, do you have some thoughts on that? Well, I,
I would say that children probably start a lot younger than we even know about. So yeah. And you say, teen, I think you said teens and adolescents. And I guess I was trying to hear if you were saying tween so the Tw e ns. You know, I
intentionally left it vague with adolescence, because I think that's a question is should tweens In other words, and 12 year olds be having access to social media? Right.
And sometimes I don't know that it's necessarily a matter of if they should. But no matter if they are having access to social media,
they have a phone, and they have to have it blocked, they have access. And honestly, even if you have it blocked them they
have access. Exactly. So that's I I know, this is going back a few years ago, there was a family who adopted a child overseas and that young lady who was basically a tween, also came with her own phone and her own access to everything that you can access on social media, and the internet. So, so yeah, so children even as and I know, we were not even talking about internationally adopted children yet same, or different. But yeah, but still, and of course, children adopted are coming into into your home to the foster care system, you may have a role and your home that that no one under the age of 12 even gets a phone or whatever that arbitrary number may be, but but a child again, if you're fostering a child, that child may come in with, with a with a phone, and certainly access or even through school computers, you know, the Chromebooks etc. And I know there's lots of blocks put on them, but I also hear silver, you know, bypassing all that and accessing material that they shouldn't access, and that's material that they shouldn't access. Nevermind, say for example, things that they could, but maybe you're not so comfortable with. As a parent, they're, they're going ahead and accessing. So again, I think it's really important that you have those conversations with your child, about their birth family about accessing that information. And I think the other thing that we need to really ask ourselves to is what are we afraid of? What are we truly afraid that our children are, are going to find out out there. And if you do have some fears, I think you never really need, again, based on the child's age, you don't want to make a seven year old, very fearful of something that they don't necessarily need to be fearful of. But I think that you need to be able to share this with your child, what some of those fears may be. And, and and having a dialogue about that as you discuss the birth family as you discuss, maybe even previous foster families and homes that they were in. Of course, we know every previous foster home is in a great situation, or if in kinship, adoption, about communicating with other relatives and all the dynamics that are involved in there. Again, we may not think that we need to have those kind of conversations with the 10 or 11 year old, maybe historically. But now, again, with social media, some of those conversations need to be had at an earlier age than maybe we're even comfortable with.
You know, I think maybe it would help if if I'd start this with talking about some of the benefits of social media for adopted and foster adolescence, and I'm going to use that term because that's kind of a general term that will include however we want, whether it be tweens or teens. And so let me just rattle off a few. maintaining social ties. Social media is how many youth connect with their friends, both old and new. It's also maybe especially important for young people who have been moved from their community or families as a way of maintaining those ties. There is some support groups that are available for youth. So that would be fostered or adopted youth, maintaining family connections, youth may be able to reach out to siblings that they've been separated from our parents or grandparents, and also self expression. I mean, nowadays, social media is where many budding poets and artists and videographers are honing their skills. And it's a place where they can also shape it and shape their identity and they can contribute. And some of all, all of this can help them heal. So I mean, there are benefits, I think, because sometimes we as parents want to say, if there are risks out there, let's just prohibit it. Well, let's get real number one, you know, you really can't prohibit it. Because even if you never give your kid a phone, or a computer, they're going to get access to it because all their friends would have it. But there are risks. And you know this, some of them, cyber bullying, child predators, contact with adults or family members who are unsafe. And the truth is that all youth are at risk for some of these unsafe online situations that youth in foster care may be particularly vulnerable. So I think it's important to note that there are definitely things we need to worry about. Dawn, Laura Jean brought up something that I think is a is a fairly common scenario. And that is the child coming into your home, be it through an older child adoption or through foster care is used to having much looser rules. They have a phone earlier than what you have allowed your children. Let's say they're 11, and they come to you with a phone and in your family. You're at the wait till eight. But wait till eighth grade is kind of a movement. So you're you know, you're you're following that, that those strictures. What are some ways that what do you do as a parent? Because taking something away is particularly something that may have have have the importance to this child as their phone might? taking that away is not something to do lightly?
No, and I wouldn't say that that would should be your first reaction. Instead, I think you can come to it with curiosity, which is how are they using the phone? As you said, What are the benefits of them using the phone? What are your concerns about the way they're using the phone? How can you support them to continue those positive things, and maybe pull back on some of the negatives. So for example, maybe that the child was allowed to watch YouTube 24 seven, and you're reasonably going to say we're going to put some limits on YouTube. But I wouldn't necessarily say take away YouTube, I think you could, again, come to it with curiosity and say, What is the draw for this child? What is it that they're learning and loving about it? How can I be flexible? Because I think the phone is like lots of other things. When children come to us with a history. There may be lots of different values. And all adoptions are trans cultural adoptions, because except maybe with the exception of kinship, but even then, because they're coming from another family culture. And so just like we may need to think about foods and clothes and music All of those things. So we also might want to think about phones. So I think removing it from this sort of rigid social media and phones context, and instead thinking of it as this cultural context, maybe gives us more flexibility and how we consider our options for this particular child?
Well, let me ask a question, because in our household, I am still still being held over my head, that I allowed our youngest to have a phone one year earlier, that her siblings, her three older siblings, they bring it up with painful frequency, that I was a wimp that I didn't hold the rules, the same, etc. So I gotta ask you, I am just guessing that if we had had a child come into our home that at 11, or 12, had a phone, that would have caused quite the uproar in my household. So Katie, any thoughts on that, that if you're going to take Dawn's approach, and that is to, to not immediately start putting restrictions on the phone use if a child comes with one? How do you handle the potential rebellion of the children already in the family who feel like that is unfair?
I think this talks about so many different aspects of parenting that I'm parenting each of you as an individual, human. And, and then I'm also I'm human. And so what I thought was a rule when I first became a mom and thought I knew, I mean, my first baby, ate all organic food and was dressed cute in gymboree and all of that. And then by the time I had my fourth, you know, he ate. He ate the baby food and all sorts of stuff. And so we're human. And I think just engaging our kids and conversation that I'm parenting each of you as an individual, and I'm making different decisions based on each of you as an individual. And what I thought might be I have learned, I've grown, I've read, the world has changed. And so we are all really, honestly coming to this, trying to do our best we do the best we can. And when we learn different things, we change what we're doing, or we do different things. But we're human, we make mistakes. The world, like I said, is changing faster than parents can keep up with it. So
Well, I do think in this particular situation, having a discussion with children before a child comes and say and I think you're a dance part about it's a trend that the culture they come from, and the experiences they've had, will make that we will have to parent them differently. And that it may seem unfair, but that we're doing our best to try to help this child fit within our family, but also respect where they this child came from. And also to, you know, to not make so many changes all at once that type of thing. I do perceive that it would that that for it's one thing if it's you know, having Mac cheese every night, it's a whole nother thing, something that if particularly around that 12 and 13 whatever age, it is, the year before your kids are going to it gets in your home, we're going to get a phone, they're usually pushing pretty hard. Won't be necessarily easy. I say this all the time, but this show would not exist without our partners and these are agencies who believe in our mission of bringing you unbiased, expert based information to help you along your your journey as a parent says and becoming a parent. One such partner is hopscotch adoptions. They are a Hague accredited international adoption agency, placing kids from Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, Ghana, Morocco, Pakistan, Serbia and Ukraine. They specialize in the placement of children with Down syndrome and other special needs. In addition to providing services for kinship adoptions, they offer home study services and post adoption services to residents in North Carolina and New York. Okay, now I want to move to talking about handling, either birth family, contacting youth or youth contacting birth family, once the child has their own social profile. And the reality is once a child has access, either through their own phone or their own computer, or their friend's phone or their friend's computer. We do not as parents necessarily, we won't even know necessarily if that they're going to be reaching, reaching out. So Don, let's start with you. What are something parents need to to think about? as their children approached the age where either they or their friends will start having access to social media.
I do think we should assume that that is going to happen because it is encrypted. Common, and and particularly its siblings, its birth siblings who are reaching out because they are more adept at social media. And often they are yearning for the sibling that is no longer with a family. So I think that we can start talking to our children about the possibility of this happening before it before it's even on the radar, I think it's a little bit like talking. Not that I'm, I'm equating birth family contact with porn, but I'm saying that it is inevitable. So when parents say how can I protect my child from seeing porn on the internet, I tell them, You can't, because it's going to happen accidentally, or it's going to happen on purpose, but it's going to happen, they're gonna have a friend who shows them, they're going to look for it, there's going to be some weird pop up when they go to a site. So let's start talking to them about how to handle it, then, by the same token, we should start talking to them about how they might handle birth family contact before it ever happens, we can, we want to let them know that we won't be angry, if they reach out, we just want to know that we won't be angry, if someone reaches out to them, we just want to know, because let's remember that the point of parenthood is to prepare young people to leave us into their own lives. And so what we're doing is holding them safe and steady, while they navigate really tricky things, including challenging relationships with other people, including what is potentially challenging relationships with birth family members, we want to be there for them. As they do that. That's one of our privileges and responsibilities as the parenting parent. And that starts with talking to them about that before that ever happens. So they feel safe coming to us, women, if it does,
in I should mention, and that was beautifully said, by the way, and I so agree that our parents at that our, our role as parents is not to constantly protect our kids, because we can't, it is to help guide them and to and to launch them. And that means that we have to let go of control. But I thought I should say at the beginning that that we have to acknowledge that with very open adoptions, this is not an issue they are your friends with their extended their birth family and extended birth family. They've already seen they see they talk. So it's it's a non issue in many situations. So but it can be a concern in some situations. Katie, where are some? What are some of the concerns that parents might legitimately have for their child making contact with birth family, so that we know what we need to prepare them for?
Well, one of the big things I think, is your child stumbling upon part of their story that you haven't told them. And so this is where you do work ahead of time that you need to look at what's online, what's, uh, what's out there. And you need to make sure your child knows their whole story. Because what you don't want to have happen is you have protected pieces of their story from them. And then they find out about it from someone else who's also involved in the story, because then that just ruptures the trust, like, what else do I not know? What else haven't you? Why didn't you tell me this? I needed to know this. And so I think it really harkens back to they need to know their whole story. I mean, we are saying 12. But with social media, it's we've got to figure out developmentally appropriate ways to talk about it earlier and earlier. And then I think it's just navigating human relationships can be complex, and it's teaching our kids, again, like Don said, not protecting them, but teaching them how do you navigate potential conflict online? Or what do you do when someone's asking you questions you're not comfortable answering. And so it's, I think, more than anything, it's encouraging our kids to have an open dialogue with us to come help troubleshoot these issues, not that they're going to be in trouble for this. Not that you're going to be upset, but that you're going to help them troubleshoot. How do you how do you respond to this message? Or I mean, I one thing I teach all my kids is the art of not blowing up someone's phone when you're not getting an immediate response. Like it's just kind of little things like that, that we're teaching them and helping them develop into successful adults.
The I think there are Yeah, and I think that something you said that really stuck with me is letting and john you said it as well. Letting them know that that it is okay so that they can come to us and that we can help them navigate some of the sticky situations that may come up With, with contact with their with their birth family. I do think too, that one of the things that parents worry about is, is that when our children are reaching out and making contact with their birth family, they're also gaining access to information about our own life through our child. So thoughts on that dawn? Well,
our lives belong to our children as well. Right? So we started out talking about how much information to share about our children's lives when they're when they're young. And we're controlling that, because we're sort of their lives are part of our life, right? They're, they're like characters in our play. One of the things about being the parent to older children, and my kids are 17 and 24, is you realize, oh, gosh, I'm a character in their play. Now. That is so true. And, and so the truth is, they have a right to write and talk about us however they like. And sometimes we're not going to like that. Now, if there are safety issues involved. That's a discussion we need to be having with our kids from the get go. But if it's just that they want to complain about us or want to share something embarrassing, unfortunately, that's their right, they can go on, and they can tell birth family members, and they can write memoirs, and they can do all the things that may be difficult for us. And that is just part of the difficult job of being a parent, I support those parents, I encourage you to complain to your friends about it. But our kids get to do their own thing that way.
Yeah, I think I would take pride if they could write a memoir, I did a good job of stressing the importance of writing dadgummit. The, what about children, and I use that word, I should say adolescence or, you know, I use children in the in the broadest sense of the word, learning about their both their birth parents past history, which may not be our lifestyle, or even their present circumstances, that that may not be living out the values that we as a family have, or their parents, they may be realizing that their birth family is struggling in some significant ways. Katie, how do we preempt for our children to make this something that is less stressful?
We start these conversations really, really early conversations about the circumstances that led to them needing to be adopted. Circumstances about things that have happened in their history. And you're, you're really just talking to your child so that when they see it, there's context behind it, that it's not like, Oh, I thought everybody was on a pedestal and she was a princess in a golden tower. No, like, we're telling her children, their their story as much as we know it. But then you also have to be really careful that what you see in one picture, or what you read about on one piece of paper, is a snapshot of a person, and there is so much more to this person. And so are you seeing them doing something online? That doesn't align with your values? Maybe. But does that mean they're a bad person? No, it means that behavior doesn't align with your values, but that there is so much more to each of us, then you will ever find online, or you will find about what's written about us that there's more. And so just really teaching kids to look beyond. I don't ever want my kids to categorize bad people and good people, there are people there are decisions, there are choices, and there are circumstances. And all of that needs to be considered.
Well said. Alright, our last question, what do we do when we have difference as a foster parent, with differing opinions with the bio parents on what is appropriate? And what is not appropriate for social media? Be it At what age a child has access? Or how much access and I as an adoptive parent, I think you have that that is your choice, but as a foster parent, how do we navigate that? dawn, I'm gonna let you have this last one.
Oh, my gosh. I feel like so many of these topics that we're talking about ultimately have more than one right answer. So I'm I would be really curious about what the differences are. And I would be really curious about if they're more lenient or less lenient, I mean, what are we talking about here? If and then I'm curious about is the ultimate goal for this child eventually family reunification, or are they looking at permanency because in some ways you might be holding space for something that the child is returning to versus you're going to be working on integrating the family or the child more into your Family permanently. So I think this is really complicated. I think that we need to really be having these conversations with the child, if it's appropriate with the family. And with the caseworker, again, this is really, really, really personal and specific. And also if the child is in counseling, or you're in counseling, which you know, as a counselor, I'm super pro counseling. These are also conversations you can be having with a neutral party, who hopefully is an adoption competent therapist, and can help you navigate these these there's not just a one right answer, do it this way, or you're doing it wrong. It's boy, this stuff is just crazy and nuanced. And And again, if their access is allowing them to have contact with, say, siblings that have been placed elsewhere, still with the family that you know that that's, that might be a reason why you might allow that to continue in some way. So I, I feel like my answer is a non answer. But that's my answer.
Well, that's actually probably a great way to end because the truth is, that that there isn't that there's not a lot of black and white, as we are dealing with social media, partly because it's changing. Even as we speak, it is changing. And but also partly because we're dealing with humans, and we're dealing in humans in general are complex, but also we're dealing with humans, sometimes at their worst period of lives, you know, especially in a good situation and in a fostering situation. This is not a good and happy time in that person's life. So it is complex, and it takes conversation, and it takes understanding and listening to figure out some of the answer. So I think your non answer is actually a good answer. Thank you so much. Dawn Friedman, olara, Jean Beauvais and Katie Byron, for being with us today to talk about handling social media as an adoptive foster or kinship parents. Thank you everybody, for joining us today and I will see you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai