By THERESA DAVIS
So you’ve gotten settled with your foster or adopted child in your home, and they have reached an age when they wants their own phone.
What is the first thing they might do? Talk to their birth family, or try to find them. Wait, what? Can your foster child do that? You may think, the child has been happy with us for all this time, why are they looking for their birth family?
If you are concerned about your foster child talking to their birth parent, talk to your case workers, your child’s law guardian, or other member of your foster/adoptive team. Always ask about any contact orders that may be in place and what the consequences are if either the birth family or the child violate the order.
Consider safety. Information the child may give to the parent, such as an address or phone number, may not be information you want birth families (or anyone else) to know yet. Be firm in what information can be given out on social media.
If possible, communicate with the birth family. Discuss how and when your child can contact them. Explain the circumstances to your child, and talk about how as a foster/adoptive parent you have rules and laws you need to follow to keep them safe, especially if there is a no contact order.
Keeping your foster child away from social media is not a practical option. Even if you take away every phone and computer in the house, they can use their friends’ phones or any phone or computer they can find.
Keeping an open dialogue with your child and their birth family is the best way to combat sneaking online. In this way, it will help you monitor what is going on during online chats.
Foster parents should always encourage communication between their foster child and their birth families when it’s possible. Like it or not, they will always love and miss each other. Adopted children may wonder how their birth families are doing or what they’re like. It’s an occupational hazard of being an adoptive parent.
Making sure your child is safe and following protocols while on social media is an important way to help your child during this difficult time in their lives.
Theresa Davis is a former early childhood educator and has worked in childcare centers for more than 15 years. She is also an adoptive mother, living and taking care of her family in the Capital District.