Foster Care and Online Technology: Are you Keeping your Child Safe?

As a foster and adoptive parent myself, I recognize the importance of technology in the lives of children.  Indeed, technology is everywhere, and for our children today, it is a large part of their lives. Yet, social network sites, such as Facebook, have opened up a whole new world for those involved in the foster care system. Foster children, foster parents, birth parents, and social workers have all felt the impact of this powerful technological communication tool. Social Networking allows foster children to stay connected to friends and family members from all over. For these children in need, it can very much be a benefit as they stay in touch with birth parents and biological family members.

socialmedia_menThese sites open up a new way to communicate with birth parents and other biological family members. Facebook and other networking sites allow foster children and birth parents to remain in day to day contact as it allows the foster child the opportunity to continue in a relationship that is important to him. This may help in allowing the child to cope with the separation from his family.

However, social networking can present challenges for children in fostercare. Some caseworkers may prefer that contact with birth parents be limited. Yet, with social networking, this can be most difficult and almost impossible for foster parents to monitor. More and more birth parents are contacting their children through social networking sites, and many times against the wishes of both foster parents and caseworkers. Birth parents are able to openly communicate with their child unsupervised, which can lead to false accusations as well as false promises.

Indeed, social networking is a whole new world for all involved in foster care; a world that can be both wonderful and dangerous at the same time. “There is the chat component of Facebook,” one caseworker noted, “where a child and their parent could essentially have a conversation that no one would be able to monitor unless they were sitting right next to the child, which is a grave concern.” Case managers would have to be familiar with the birth parent’s Facebook page before the foster child was to even access it. Along with this, there are many reports of foster parents being bullied and stalked by the birth parents through social networking.

Another caseworker suggested that, “I am personally aware of inappropriate things that parents post on their Facebook pages that would not be appropriate for their children to view. Not only might there be inappropriate information and comments on there, there also might be inappropriate photos and other harmful content that the children do not need to be exposed to, not just from the birth parents, but from the internet, in general.”

Indeed, social networking is a whole new world for all involved in foster care, and its a world that can be both wonderful and dangerous at the same time. Much more information and research is needed before the social network explosion engulfs foster care.

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