Over 2 billion of the 7 billion people worldwide use social media. Of all Internet users, 47% are on Facebook. The likelihood of the members of your adoption relationship being a part of social media is high. So how can social networking and adoption work together successfully?
Navigating relationships in adoption doesn’t have to be difficult, but social media can sometimes muddy the waters if used poorly. Social media can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you proceed. From prior to your match, throughout your match, and into your adoption relationship, social media can play a vital role in communication, but boundaries may need to be established and privacy and respect given so the relationship can grow naturally and not feel forced or intrusive.
1. Hoping to Adopt.
Are you hoping to adopt? Many couples hoping to adopt share their journeys on social media. They may set up a Facebook profile page that highlights their family and ask friends and family to share their desire to adopt within their own networks. They may place online ads and share their contact information regularly in their own feed. But something to keep in mind is that networking and marketing are often regulated by state laws when it comes to adoption. Be sure you are meeting all the legal requirements of your state before getting too ahead of yourself.
Also, be sure to conduct yourself ethically. You may be very excited to get matched with an expectant mother and put the cart before the horse. Make sure you are educated in adoption ethics and understand modern adoption language. First impressions mean a lot, and if you do meet your match through social media, you’ll want to make sure you build a strong foundation right off the bat.
2. Adoption Support
Social networking can be an enormous resource when it comes to adoption support groups! In my journey I joined a local adoption group and several larger groups that I found online. From these groups I was able to gain perspective, hear real life experiences, get advice, receive education, and build friendships. Sometimes these groups will be comprised solely of other adoptive parents, but others will have birth parents, expecting parents, and adoptees in them as well. But either way, online groups can be a great way to learn and get support.
3. Establishing a Relationship
In the early stages of your adoption match, or post-placement, you may consider connecting on social media to keep in touch and get to know one another. Some people are very open on social media, while others keep their profiles private. Having a talk about how you visualize your open adoption relationship unfolding on social media could help you each understand each other’s take on social networking. You’ll need to remain respectful of what you post and how it is worded, so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings or trigger negative emotions. Try not to take it personally if the other party doesn’t wish to connect with you on social media; they may feel they need their own unfiltered private space.
4. Navigating the Adoption Triad
Once the relationship is established and going smoothly, social media may be less complicated. You may fit together nicely and have integrated your families together completely. Social media may seem like a no-brainer for these types of relationships. However, social media and any form of written communication can always run the risk of fostering misunderstandings. Remember that things like tone of voice, sarcasm, and humor won’t necessarily translate through your writing. Be gentle and maintain respect with posts.
Also remember that social media can mean not only another way for the parents to communicate, but also a means for the child to one day play an independent role in the relationship with his or her birth family.
5. Closed Adoptions
Unfortunately, there are some situations where the adoption is a closed adoption, often for reasons of safety, former abuse, or personal choice by the birth mother. In these cases, social media can pose a problem. While social media has proven to be a very effective search tool for teens and adults from closed adoptions, it can also pose a risk if the adoption is closed for good reasons. You may need to take precautions to keep your child safe, but information that you may not have been otherwise able to obtain may be found out with social media searches.
6. Adoption Education
A huge bonus of social networking is the ability to educate and be educated on adoption topics. Not only can you be a voice for helping people not touched by adoption to have a direct link to adoption through you and your story, but you can constantly learn from others in adoption communities on social media.
Sharing insight, ethics, law changes, open adoption stories, and personal accounts can open the door for adoption conversations that used to be taboo. This can allow people to see that the big media portrayal of adoption is often skewed, and that adoption is not a scary topic. Through the online adoption groups I have joined, I have gained far more knowledge about adoption topics than I ever did in the training I had prior to adopting. Keep learning and keep sharing!
Overall, social networking and adoption can go hand in hand. The benefits often outweigh the risks. If you enter relationships with respect and understand the tone set forth on social media, the beauty of openness can blossom. Respectful conversations may need to be had with family members or between members of the adoption triad to ensure that toes aren’t stepped on, feelings aren’t hurt, and emotions aren’t heightened. If you spark these conversations from a place of love and genuine caring, then there is no reason the relationship can’t be as grand as the effort you put into it, with social media just being an extension of the other avenues you communicate through.