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Adoption, Secrecy and Facebook

May 25, 2010

Back in August last year I wrote about the potential effects of social networking sites, primarily Facebook, on adoption. Now I see Victoria Macdonald in the Observer and under the not understated headline;  “Adopted children face anguish as birth parents stalk them on Facebook”, has discovered the same issue. Her take on this is how dreadful it is for biological parents to attempt, through Facebook, to make contact with and upset the lives of the offspring they could not care for and who are now happily settled in adoptive families.

On the other hand I am aware of children taking the initiative and using Facebook to communicate with parents and relatives who they are not supposed to have contact with either because of court orders, care authority decisions or adoption. There is at least one web service which offers to trace records of birth parents and other birth relatives for adopted people. You have claim to be 18 or over to use this service although whether any checks are made about age I do not know.

And then there is this. It is reported that A Maryland couple have adopted a child through Facebook. “The couple [discovering they were infertile] then decided that adoption would be their best route.  A friend of theirs on Facebook knew someone who was pregnant and wanted to give her child up for adoption.  They hooked up with this person via Facebook and began talking…”.

And then this: “The couple, Jeremy and Christy Nueman, wanted to adopt a baby after struggling with infertility for five years. But instead of relying solely on newspaper ads or bulletin board fliers to increase their chances of connecting with a birth mother, they created a short YouTube video to show who they are. Upon watching the video online, Amanda immediately connected with a snapshot of the Nuemans’ adorable miniature pinscher named Penny. … [and] picked the Nuemans to become the adoptive parents of her baby.”

BAAF (who have their own Facebook site) say in the intro to their upcoming conference Facing Up To Facebook on June 24th: “The growth in the use of social networking sites such as Facebook has generally been an exciting and positive development in helping people of all ages keep in touch with each other. However, the unthinking and poorly informed use of social networking can produce a range of unforeseen consequences… ”

BAAF don’t seem to have any comment about Penny the pinscher.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2010 7:05 am

    I think a lot of agencies have a lack of understanding about some of the social networking that is going on and quite how resourceful and more knowledgeable children can be. I say this in my role as a foster carer and trying to tread the line between allowing a child access to the same networks that her friends are a part of while being told by her social worker not to allow her any contact with her family. I wonder how realistic some of these assumptions are.
    I wish some realistic guidelines were in place as opposed to ‘only let her use the computer for school work’..

  2. May 27, 2010 8:34 pm

    Perhaps Facebook shouldn’t be so proud of its claim that no one on Facebook is anonymous. They are rolling with some big legal issues if this is 100% true.

  3. david permalink
    August 22, 2010 4:44 am

    What? we were promised a child and for a mere 15,000 we can make sure we have the child we want

  4. Stephen permalink
    November 3, 2010 8:28 am

    I think the issue should be rethought. Maybe a blanket ban on all contact should not be the rule anymore. I would propose the following instead:

    1) Birth parents should not except the foster care system will provide them totally privacy in the age of the internet. Anyone can e-mail, facebook, myspace, skype, another person unless you block them.

    2) Birth parents and children who want no contact should take advantage of the blocking capabilities of these sites

    3) Maybe the social workers should suggest different levels of contact for those adopted kids who want to contact their birth families and the families want to allow, depending on their current situation, why they were taken away, put up for adoption such as:

    *No Contact
    * Phone contact allowed
    * E-mail contact allowed
    * Social networking contact allowed
    * Allow to meet in person

    This should be reevaluated every year, not just a blanket ban on contact till the child is 18. There may be some bad parents who end up turning their life around later or some people that were involved in crime that turn their life around.

    4) It will be inevitable that some unauthorized contact and meeting occurs with a childs birth parents given the wide availablilty of public computers and kids doing things unbeknowist to their parents and foster parents online. In this case the child should be educated if found doing this about the risks they face. Child support agencies may not be able to “hide the truth” or “hide the children” 100% until they are 18 anymore. The reality of internet communication may have made this secrecy practice obsolete. I would not recommend sending either the child or birthe parents to jail or move the child out of the neighborhood simply because an adopted child has met up with their birth parents or communicated with them after they have been taken away.

    I would make the disciplinary action based on the type of treatment they had post contact. If they show signs of abuse, CPS should intervene. If on the other hand, the birth parents are supportive of the child and acting as a good parent or babysitter would and wants to play an active, supporting role to the child as a good friend then no action should be taken and the child should be allowed to continue further contact.

    5) Siblings (like the kids brothers and sisters) should be blocked from initiating contact unless there was a major juvenile crime or relationship issue between them. CPS should be more lienient at allowing contacts if they did nothing wrong and the child was taken away simply because of a bad parent action.

    6) The child and birth parent should be required to accept their own risks of an unauthorized visit or contact. This is also true if they hear the uncensored side of why a child was taken away, family matters that were not disclosed at the time of CPS or adoption agency intervention, etc. There is no turning back if this becomes part of the childs long term memory as is the contacts of other former family members or siblings.

    7) Foster homes should place the computer with internet access in a public area and foster parents should try to supervise the childs internet use when possible. If a teen shows signs of irresponsibility, they should not put a computer with internet access in their own room unless it is filtered.

    8) There is nothing to really stop a determined enough person to find their child and/or a determined enough child to find their birth parents. Adoption agencies have to learn this and take it for granted!


  1. Facebook and Adoption « WALL – a social worker's blog

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