I am not exactly a social media maven, so the fact that I’m writing this article at all is somewhat amusing. I don’t use Twitter or Instagram or whatever the current cool social media platform is. I will also be the first to admit that it took me a long, long time to join the Facebook bandwagon. It always felt just a wee bit creepy to me. Frankly, in some ways it still feels a wee bit creepy, but I have found so many other positive benefits to it, that they seem to override the creepiness. Many of these benefits relate specifically to adoption or my adopted children. Here is my top six.
Adoption is expensive, both in emotional investment and financial investment. Adoptive parents need to be diligent in their research of adoption agencies before signing on the dotted line. Pre-internet, this research was significantly more difficult. Now there are groups dedicated solely to agency research where parents can read about the good and the bad for just about any agency they are interested in.
There are children out there who need families, who want families. There are families who are looking for a child to adopt. Social media makes it so much easier to connect these two groups. In full disclosure, we found three of our children through advocacy pages posted on the internet. These children would not be ours had they not been visible online. I also have the privilege of being the person who connected another boy with his new family. Social media advocacy works. I know that there are issues regarding a child’s privacy, but I also think that this form of advocacy can be done without providing too much personal information. People need pictures and stories to feel a connection to a child – something a name and age on a list that’s a thousand children long cannot provide.
My world is international adoption, which requires home studies, dossiers, foreign consulates, and the US immigration service, just to get the ball rolling. After you have crossed those hurdles, there is still the travel and dealing with a foreign culture, language, and government. None of this is something that a regular person deals with, usually, at any time in his or her life. It even has its own language. For instance, I actually understand what this sentence means, “I’ve been DTC for several weeks now, why don’t I have an LID yet?” Or how about, “I think we’ll have LOA any day now. How long after we send in our I800 do you think we’ll hear about our GUZ number so we can complete our Article 5?”
Using Facebook groups helps to take some of the mystery out of a process that is full of jargon and unknowns. They can provide explanations, timelines, advice on couriers and notaries and paperwork, hotels, airlines, restaurants, etc. It is so much less terrifying to travel armed with the information and advice from dozens of people who have survived the same trip.
There is nothing so terrifying as being in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, having a child handed over to you with whom you cannot communicate, and then being left to your own devices. Add in grief and terror on the part of the child, combined with the realization that what was in that child’s file is not what you really imagined, it can be a train wreck for all parties involved.
I have watched time and again as terrified exhausted parents reach out to their social media groups for help and advice. I have watched experienced adoptive parents throw lifelines to struggling parents as they survive the early days with their new child. I am convinced that more than a few adoptions have been saved from disruption by the overwhelming support of experienced parents via adoption Facebook groups. If this is the only thing that social media accomplishes, then it is a good thing. Parenting can be hard. Adoptive parenting can be uniquely hard. We all need support in the trenches and sometimes the best place for that support is through social media.
Two of my children have the same rare genetic disease. I knew no one who had a child with this disease, and didn’t know anyone who had heard of it. I’ve even had to spell the name of this disease for doctors’ offices before. It’s really rare. But, because of social media, I am in contact with over 50 other people whose children have the same disease. They are from all around the world, but being able to share knowledge and experiences with them is invaluable. I’ve talked to other special needs parents, and they agree: the crowd sourcing of information related to treatment, care, and management of their child’s particular need has proved invaluable, often making a significant difference in their child’s care and quality of life.
All adopted children have experienced trauma, though the effects of that trauma on the child vary. For those of us whose children are significantly impacted, social media has been huge in both educating ourselves and others in the parenting techniques needed to help our children heal. I wish that we had access to the same information ten years ago when we first began this journey. It would have made a major difference in the emotional health of at least one of my children and we could have avoided years of misery. I use social media to help educate other adoptive parents about the effects of trauma in the hopes that others can avoid making the same mistakes that I did.
I strongly believe that every parent who is in the process of adopting should be on social media, at least reading, if not actively participating. There is a wealth of knowledge and information to be gained. There is one more thing that I want to add, if an agency you are thinking of signing with tells you that they forbid using social media groups, run away. There is no reason to forbid parents to use them, and by doing so, these agencies are cutting parents off from resources that could make the difference between the success and failure of their future family. No, I don’t think that statement is too strong, and I do not think there is such a thing as too much education and preparedness.