Social workers and adoptive parents are being warned about the negative impact social networking sites can have when adopted children use them to trace their birth parents.
The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has warned that sites, such as Facebook, can pose a “serious threat” to adopted children and families because they result in “unplanned and unsupported” contact.
David Holmes, chief executive of BAAF, urged social workers to familiarize themselves “in all aspects of social media” so they can support adoptive families and help raise awareness of the risks posed by online networking.
BAAF said birth parents may be unable to deal with unsolicited contact from their children via the internet, while children could be hurt by what they discovered. The charity pointed out that some birth parents may have kept the pregnancy, birth and subsequent adoption secret for religious or social reasons.
A child may also not fully understand the reasons why they came into care – for example, a neglectful or violent home life – and would therefore not understand the danger they were putting themselves in, BAAF said.
“We can not put the genie back in the bottle. We need to learn how to deal with [social media] in relation to contact issues with birth families,” he said.
Holmes said the use of social media needs to be incorporated into an understanding of the “importance of a child’s curiosity about their origins, and how this changes over time.”
“Adopters and adoption agencies need to become tech-savvy so they can talk with confidence while recognizing the natural curiosity and the need for information. Adoption agencies have developed great expertise about this, and social networking needs to be incorporated into that expertise,” he said.
BAAF recommends that these issues are discussed with adoptive parents in preparation classes; that social workers advise adopters and children of the risks of tracing through the internet; and explain the benefits of contact through an intermediary.
The charity has produced Facing up to Facebook, a detailed guide for professionals and adoptive parents, as part of their national internet safety campaign.