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.
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.
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.