The impact of social networking on adoption is considered in a guide for Community Care Inform Children, first written by Eileen Fursland and recently updated by Julia Feast and Elaine Dibben from CoramBAAF. The guide covers key legislation and research, issues to be aware of and practical advice for adoption social workers. These are some brief tips from the guide; Inform Children subscribers can read the full guide and access the adoption knowledge and practice hub.
Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have altered the world in a myriad of ways, both positive and negative. Adoption is one area where social networking can have a huge affect, by making it much easier for adopted children and birth family to make contact, sometimes bypassing all safeguarding processes.
In many adoptions, it’s seen to be in the best interests of the child to have occasional direct or in direct contact with birth relatives, such as through an annual ‘letterbox’ letter with a birth parent. This is agreed with adopters before the adoption order.
Contact agreements are voluntary, but social workers should think explicitly about addressing the issue of social networking in the agreement. This ensures that birth parents understand there could be consequences to them making an approach to their child. It also helps them to be aware of the need to seek support if they receive an approach from the child or young person directly.
It is natural for adopted children and young people to be curious about their birth families, and this curiousity often deepens when they reach adolescence. If an adopted young person expresses a wish to find out more information or to meet their birth parents, the adoptive parents need to talk this through with them, showing that they understand and accept the young person’s need to know. They can say they will support them in finding out more through the “proper channels”.
The support of an experienced adoption social worker can be enormously helpful in this situation. They can explain the best way of re-establishing contact, and try and ensure the child or young person has a good understanding of the complexities of making contact and where it can lead. They can also help the young person understand the risks and drawbacks of using the internet to make a direct approach.
Unmediated and unplanned contact
When adoptive parents find out about secret contact between the young person and their birth family, they are usually shocked, and may feel hurt, angry and betrayed. They are often anxious about the effect on their child’s wellbeing.
Adoption social workers – depending on their role and their agency’s role – many need to talk to adopted young people, their birth relatives and adoptive parents to try and support the various parties involved, help them agree a way forward and manage some very complex and painful situations.
Preventing adoption breakdown – what social workers need to know
Fully preparing the child and being aware of issues like post-adoption depression can be key in stopping adoption disruption.