Social Media and The Foster Care System

 

I am one to admit that I spend my days looking up pictures of available dogs at the local animal shelter. It is great as you get all the information about the dog that you would have gotten if you actually went into the shelter. These sites such as pet finder tells you the name of the dog, the age, gender, type and if the dog likes kids and other dogs. They also use their Instagram account to show these precious animals in their forever homes once they get adopted. This made me start to wonder about if the Foster Care system is using social media in order to find perspective parents for them. I was not sure if the system would be able to post about kids on Social Media due to privacy restrictions.

 

While every state had their own foster care system, I decided to look more into the Massachusetts Foster Care System. Right away I found an Instagram account for one of the many agencies working on finding children homes in MA. The account is @mass_adopt. On this account there are tons of photos of actual children in the system. It seems as though they post about two kids up for foster care/adoption every week. They have the WBZTV #WednesdayChild of the week of a child who needs a home. These photos come with a little description about the child, a link for more information and a phone number to call if you have questions. The other day they post a photo of a child is on Sundays. This is for the Boston Globe #SundaysChild. Once again they post a small description and a link for more information.

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Another account that has the goal of raising the awareness of the Foster Care System is @togetherwerise (recommend grabbing some tissues before looking at all the cuteness and love on this account) . This account is full of heartwarming stories of children who have been adopted. The posts show the kids either with their new forever family or with a sign saying how many days they spent in the foster care system before being adopted. There is also a little testimonial to go along with each picture of the kids who got adopted. While these kids may have already found their new homes, it allows the Foster Care System to get more connection with potential foster families.

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After some initial research I found out that it can actually be dangerous for the children in the foster system to use social media. If their webpages are not private then estranged family members could find and contact them. This could create a dangerous situation as these children often come from unhealthy home lives. These foster care children try to use social media because it is something they can control. But while they are using it they do not necessarily think of the fact that a birth parent or dangerous family member could look for them.

 

Social media is also being used for birth parents or children to then contact their family. This creates an open portal that allows them to communicate with each other in a private way. Social media has made it easier than ever to find one’s birth parents or a child that they gave up for adoption. With the input of a name a portal to direct contact can be formed within moments. Due to the private messaging on almost all social media, these connections can be kept from family members. There have been stories were children will meet up with their birth parents without telling their adoptive parents. While there are tons of happy ending stories of reunions that all started with social media, those who are in the foster care system also must be wary of its negative effects.

 

Social media does not just impact the adopted but also can help the foster parent or adoptive parents. Online, these parents can find multiple different support groups. These support groups range from blog threads to in-person meetings to websites dedicated to helping adoptive parents. There are also sites dedicated to pre-adoption/ pre-fostering. These sites have information regarding what one should accept to blogs of people’s past experience going through the process. Social media had created this network that allows want to be foster parents to have all the right tools to welcome a new kid into their home.

 

Overall, social media can be seen as a positive for the foster care system.  It can help children find their forever home, give kids that control that they may not otherwise has, and connect children with their birth parents if the timing is right.  It also creates an endless network of support for the birth parents, adoptive parents and the children.

11 comments

  1. Really interesting post! I haven’t thought about the foster care system and social media before, and this was a really informative post about how some accounts work, along with the the benefits and potential fallbacks of utilizing social media. I’m curious to know if these posts contribute to any increase in the number of adoptions, and I’d like to think yes. I don’t have any personal experience with adoption, but from the few people I know who were adopted, they were all curious to know who their birth parents were. Therefore, I think social media is a good channel to connect children with their birth parents at a time in their lives when they are ready to look.

  2. I never really thought about social media and the foster care system so super interesting post! I think there is a fine line on how to do this without being too revealing or somewhat distasteful because its not like you’re looking at clothes to buy or apartment decorations, its a child. I understand the privacy thing completely and honestly its a little stressful to post these pictures or not to monitor usage because it can be dangerous for the child and at the end of the day, they are who are important to nurture and remain in a healthy situation.

  3. Interesting topic and I enjoyed the differnt perspectives you brought to light. I agree that social media has a net positive impact across foster system. Social media is a great way to promote awareness of both children that are in need of homes and foster homes in need of support/resources. I do understand the potential risk associated with children who may have come to the foster home under unfortunate circumstances, which is a difficult situation to address. I’d also be interested to hear if foster homes that use social media have seen an increase in number of adoptions.

  4. Really interesting post! I’m a little bit uneasy about the of profiling children within the system for prospective foster families. I know it’s probably effective, I just think that it shouldn’t be part of the process or one’s journey to becoming a foster parent. I think if the posts focused on success stories (i.e. children that have successfully found a foster home and great family match), I would be more warm about the idea of using social media to raise awareness for an agency. I think support groups via social media are very positive.

  5. Thanks for the post! I would have never thought that adoption agencies would use social media to raise awareness Like you mentioned, I feel like the agencies have to be careful about how much information is shared due to traumatic histories. I wonder if there is any data around how successful using social media is with finding adoptive parents.

  6. I really enjoyed how you transitioned from the pet adoption into the foster care system. While everything may sound great, I think you also did a great job of discussing the cons with SM posting. It is interesting to think about how easy it is now for a birth parent to find their child. It really seems like there would be no way to monitor this from the standpoint of the guardian. Additionally. I thought you had a good take on the danger of posting kids in the event that they could return to their previous unhealthy home. All in all, adoptions should still have a heavy focus so that the right parents come for the children.

  7. I like how you balanced out the advantages with the potential dangers of online foster care system. Although I am all for the idea behind this system, I think it’s crucial to prevent any individual child from being targeted by ill-minded adults. I had only known about and participated in social media campaigns for world hunger (like Save the Children) and health care (Doctors Without Borders) and I’m happy I got to find out there are so many more supportive networks that are facilitated by digital technology. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Really interesting post. I had not thought of social media use for adoption. I think its hard because you dont want to have a large digital footprint for all of these kids when it could lead to estranged family members trying to get in touch but the benefits are also clearly there. You did a good job of explaining both sides.

  9. Thank you for your post Jordan, this is a topic I had never thought about before. While I have seen animal shelter accounts, this is the first I’ve heard of regarding foster care on social media. I find myself a bit confounded on whether or not I think social media makes more of a positive or negative impact on the system – positive being children can have their stories shared and with higher media exposure, have a higher chance of being adopted by an eager family who can relate or sympathize to the story. However, I also worry about the rights of the children who are being posted on because they are still young and may not fully understand they are technically being “broadcasted” as orphans – will this somehow hurt them in the future?/does this put them in danger?/what happens if as they grow up they don’t want people to know about their past? Regardless, thank you for writing a thought-provoking post!

  10. I had never considered this topic but can definitely understand some of the concerns about privacy you mentioned. I also am not sure how I feel about the principal of promoting unadopted children. It starts to get to be too much like a marketplace for me and should stay focused on success stories. I’m not sure how the process of adopting works currently (if you can search by age, gender, or other variables) but a searchable database of profiles seems a little creepy to me. Great post!

  11. It seems like I missed a few posts last week. I think you hit on a really interesting issue here – the need to bring attention to the cases combined with the need to protect them from harmful pasts.

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