From perfect strangers to our closest friends and relatives, social media has changed the way we communicate with others — and birth parents and adoptive families are no exception.
Individuals can now use social media to find prospective adoption opportunities and make connections with birth parents and adoptive families in open adoption. Online support groups offer communities for adoptive and birth parents, and adoptees who once had closed adoptions can now find their birth parents through social media.
When using social media, it’s important to remember that the adoption process is not only your story, but your child’s story, and the way you tell that story could impact all parties involved. The following are just some of the guidelines for adoptive and birth parents to consider when using social media to communicate about their adoption journey.
Assume that anything you say on social media will live forever in one form or another. Before posting sensitive information about your adoption plans and your child, consider the possibility that the information you share now could one day be seen by your child.
Whether you are an expectant mother or adoptive parent seeking an adoption opportunity, it is important to be aware of your state’s laws regarding advertising and adoption. Consult with your attorney about your social media use to ensure your posts don’t inadvertently break adoption advertising laws.
You may also work with your adoption specialist or your adoption attorney to develop a pre- and post-adoption social media plan. Having a plan in place will allow birth parents and adoptive families to establish and agree on boundaries regarding discussions of their child and the adoption on social media.
Check your privacy settings on your social media platforms. Who has access to the information you post? Do you want those people to have access to information about your adoption? If you plan to share information about your adoption process on social media, adjust your privacy settings to limit the people who can access that information.
When sharing adoption information with your social media networks, remember that friends can share or respond to your posts, opening your information to a wider audience beyond your intended group of friends and followers. Include this consideration in your pre- and post-adoption social media plan.
Do not post any information about a prospective adoption opportunity on social media sites. While this is an exciting step of the adoption process, it is best to wait until placement or, better yet, until the adoption is finalized to begin posting on social media.
Do not share identifying information (including photos) about the birth or adoptive family or the child.
When sharing images of children, consider private photo-sharing websites that require a password to view posted photo galleries.
If you have an open adoption, consider setting up a separate, private website or private Facebook page to share pictures, information and milestones between the birth and adoptive families. This will allow you to share adoption information with a select group of individuals without including the day-to-day information you might share on your public social media sites.
Have clear boundaries from the beginning about who you will accept friend and follower requests from, including extended birth and adoptive family members.
Avoid angry or emotionally charged communication about other members of the adoption process. Again, remember that anything you do or say on social media could potentially be seen by your child one day, and these types of negative posts could be upsetting to your child.
Monitor and censor what friends post on your social media pages. If you shared adoption information with a friend or family member outside of social media, they may post questions or information to your social media pages that publicly reveals this information.
When posting to online adoption support groups or discussion forums, be careful to guard the privacy and identity of the members of your adoption. Consider changing names or using commonly used acronyms, such as “BP” for birth parent.
Share your pre-adoption social media plan with your partner, the birth father, and other friends and family members who are aware of your adoption to make sure everyone understands your wishes regarding the information that is shared on social media.
If you receive a friend request from a child, speak to an adoption specialist before responding. Social media is often not the best format to make these types of connections, and you may consider redirecting the request to more traditional formats, such as personal letters or emails.
Do not criticize the adoptive parents on social media, including expressing frustration with their parenting decisions.
You’ll need to express your feelings of grief and loss associated with the adoption process, but social media sites may not be the best avenue to share such sensitive and personal information. Consider sending a private message to trusted friends and family or make a post welcoming direct communication from those who want to offer their support.
Do not post pre-placement adoption information, such as ultrasound photos, without an agreement from the birth parents.
If you are connected to your child’s birth family on social media, avoid posting complaints about your child. Simple expressions of routine frustrations over late-night diaper changes or a messy bedroom can be misinterpreted by birth parents and lead to hurt feelings.
If you have an open or semi-open adoption with your child’s birth parents, share big news and milestones regarding your child with them directly via letter, email or phone call before posting it online for the rest of your social network to see.
Never criticize members of the birth family on social media, including those who seem to be unsupportive of the birth mother’s adoption decision.
Do not discuss financial aspects of the adoption process on social media.
As your child grows up and begins to use social media, consider their privacy settings and their access to information about their birth family. Prepare your child for the pros and cons of developing a social media relationship with his or her birth family.
Social media can be a great tool for birth and adoptive families to stay connected, but it can also lead to tension when sensitive information is not handled correctly. If you have questions or concerns about social media and adoption, or if you are interested in creating your own pre- and post-adoption social media plan, consult with your adoption specialist or attorney.
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