Assuming you’re on social media and not living under a rock, you’ve probably seen how the internet has changed our ability to connect with others. In some ways, it’s amazing to be able to share pictures of our kid’s first steps or the day they lost their first tooth. But it’s also scary to know that all of our information is accessible by strangers. So, how can we protect our privacy and our children’s privacy? How do we know how much to share about their adoption? How can we make safe choices and yet still share news about our family?
The first thing to ask is how much privacy you want to maintain before, during, and after your adoption. Depending on the nature of your adoption search, and whether you are searching for a birth parent, you may need to adjust your privacy expectations as you go.
Because internet privacy is a subjective issue, every family will come to a different conclusion on what level of privacy is right for them. No matter what you choose, there are several factors to consider as you go through your adoption journey.
Four Things to Consider When It Comes to Online Privacy
1. Consider how you’ll share information with your support system during your adoption.
During our adoption, our family wanted to share adoption updates privately with a select group of people. We created a private Facebook group so we could keep people updated on specific prayer requests, as well as things about our adoption that were more personal. This private group received regular updates about our adoption process, including some details that I didn’t want to share publicly, especially regarding the birth mom and baby. By creating a group, instead of publicly posting, I was able to maintain some privacy while still sharing information with family members who lived far away.
2. Be respectful of birth families online by not sharing their information or picture.
During our adoption process, I wanted to be respectful of any birth families we would be involved with. I wanted to keep their story private because it was not mine to share. Although I was okay with sharing the story of how we came to adopt, it wasn’t my place to share the details of why the birth parents came to that same place.
As you consider issues of privacy, it’s important to remember that two stories are part of your adoption. One is yours to share. One is your birth mom’s or birth parents’ and the child involved. As adoptive parents, we want to find a balance of sharing our story, to let people know about it while respecting our birth families’ stories at the same time.
3. Remember that birth family may look at your profile online.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that birth families are looking at your pictures and stories on social media. As they search for a family, they want to make sure you’re an honest person and that you don’t have something to hide. Birth families want to know more about you and they want to make sure that you’re not just putting on an act. This reassures them that you are going to be a great mom or dad for their baby.
4. Ignore negative voices online.
Social media has a downside too, and everyone feels they have a voice in the adoption process. Before the internet, birth parents were able to make an adoption decision without a community of voices weighing in from outside sources. That was large because we weren’t so interconnected through modern technology, but that is no longer the case. The more voices involved in the decision, the more confusing it can be. When it comes to adoption, it’s hard for everyone to maintain privacy unless you are intentional about it.
How Do I Protect My Child’s Privacy?
The internet can be a fun place to share life events and news. But how can we protect the privacy of our children and the details of our adoption?
First of all, consider your privacy settings on all social media platforms. If you are comfortable sharing pictures of your children, then feel free to do so, understanding that everyone can see them, including biological family. But if you aren’t comfortable, you may want to set your social media for private or refrain from posting pictures. I know many families who do not share their child’s pictures online. This is one way to protect your child’s adoption story and give them additional privacy.
Remember, your first consideration is your child’s safety, so never share a picture that gives away their location. If you’re taking a picture on the first day of school, avoid sharing a picture that directly reveals the school name or a picture of your house with the address number in the shot.
Second, if you’re concerned about privacy, tell family and friends that you don’t want them sharing your adoption posts. Just because your social media is set to private doesn’t mean it can’t be shared or seen by strangers. Often, friends may inadvertently share a post that you don’t want others to see. Be clear in your communication so there are no misunderstandings later.
No matter how you feel about privacy issues, keep in mind that privacy is nuanced. For example, just because you share your personal adoption story, doesn’t mean you have to share details of your child’s story. You can decide to share your part of the story to fundraise and connect with a birth mom, but you can also decide, once the adoption goes through, that you’d like to maintain a higher level of privacy with your children.
Long-term privacy issues can also undermine the adoption contract between the birth family and your child. If you have a child who is not in contact with their birth family, they may use the internet and social media to search for them and vice versa. You may want to sit down and talk with your child about if and when there’s a right time for searching for birth parents, and how to respond if someone tries to contact them. Sometimes birth families don’t want to be contacted or have their confidentiality reasons, so it might be worth discussing respecting people’s privacy and the rules of the adoption contract.
For the most part, being proactive about discussing this before it happens is much better than reacting and discussing it after it happens. We live in a world where you can be contacted if you’re online. We can’t pretend that our children’s privacy will be protected until they’re 18. Many children are on social media by middle school, and our job as parents is to be engaged and aware, keeping the door to conversation open so they will come to us when they have questions.
How the Internet Can Benefit Your Family
Despite the negatives concerning the internet, privacy issues, and adoption, it’s important to decide ahead of time whose voice you want to allow into your lives before, during, and after your adoption is finalized. If you’re pursuing a domestic adoption, whose voice will be encouraging to you during this critical time? Who will be encouraging you through that waiting process or decision? If you’re seeking a foster adoption, who will provide support if the adoption process drags on?
There’s also the issue of long-term support. Who do you want over the long haul to help your family to adjust and bond? How can you use the internet to help you with this process?
Abundant resources are available to support you in your adoption and parenting journey if you’re willing to seek them out.
Once you have finalized your adoption, you can continue to receive support from other adoptive parents and adoption professionals online. Participating in an online adoption group can be one way to access a supportive community. Different kinds of adoption groups exist on social media, including public groups, private groups, and secret groups that want to maintain some additional privacy for their families. Adoption.com also has an adoptive parents forum if you want to interact with other adoptive parents and share questions.
Some adoption agencies and organizations offer their adoption training online and parenting conferences to allow adoptive families to learn something valuable from the comfort of their home. This is an incredible timesaver because you don’t have to spend time traveling and may be able to watch it when it is convenient for your schedule.
If you’re seeking out parental advice, there’s a wealth of information online. Be sure to find reputable sources that address the struggles your child is having and ask adoption professionals if they have any sources they’d recommend. Not everyone online is an expert, but many experts do provide videos and articles to use as a resource. Most of these are entirely free and can be used in conjunction with therapy or counseling to help your child. Some counselors and therapists who specialize in adoption-related issues will even give counseling sessions online, allowing parents to access highly specialized counselors from across the country.
Besides online learning and support, the internet has also made communication more accessible than ever. This is invaluable if you have an open adoption and live far apart from birth parents. In open adoption cases, social media has been away for parents to communicate and share pictures with birth families. It’s also been a way to keep in touch through moving, cellphone charges, or emergencies. So although privacy is always an issue, the advantages of communication through the internet make it amazingly easy to maintain contact if you have a birth family.
How Much Should I Share Online?
As you know adoption doesn’t end the day you adopt, it’s a journey for a lifetime. The words you use and the stories you share all play into people’s understanding of adoption. But this also opens you up to questions and possible criticism. For example, strangers will sometimes ask questions about adoption that may not be appropriate like, “Did the birth mother take drugs or drink?” or “Why did she choose adoption?”
If people start asking questions about your child’s biological history, including their birth parents, background, or other detailed questions, don’t be afraid to remind them that this is not your story to share. These are all things that are part of your child’s story. As parents, we need to be educating others about adoption, but that doesn’t mean we need to compromise our children’s privacy.
Additionally, we need to prepare our children for this same problem as they mature. My daughter frequently got asked questions about her adoption by curious classmates. My advice to her was always the same: ”Your story is private. You don’t have to share it.” Most of the time, she wouldn’t. Our job, as parents, is not only to protect our children’s stories but also to educate our kids about how they should respond to others who overstep their bounds when it comes to privacy. It’s okay for them not to share information about their story, whether that’s online or in person.
In our quest for the right level of privacy, all adoptive parents are in a unique position to continue to be adoption advocate online. That doesn’t mean you need to compromise your privacy, but it does mean that how you talk about adoption impacts other people. Even though you might not see yourself as an expert, there will be people who look to you for advice or information about adoption. If you’re in the process of adopting, you may also be in a unique position to be an encourager for someone else who is considering adoption. Being an adoptive parent means we can use our voice online to be adoption advocates and to inspire others who are on the adoption journey.
If you are looking for more information on how to protect your child’s privacy through adoption, Adoption.com has tons of fantastic resources on raising adopted children. There’s a wealth of information that is available to us as we guide our children and work to decide what level of privacy is right for our family.
Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.