Foster families have rules to work with when utilizing social media. With many options available, each family can choose what fits best.
Social Media is a common part of everyday life for many of us. Sharing photos of our lives and our families is something we are used to. If incorporating any foster placements into our family is the goal, it may seem backwards to not include them in the photos we share with our friends and family. Whether it’s a family photo on a holiday or a picture to celebrate a milestone or accomplishment, photos of children in foster care simply cannot be shared on social media.
It may be difficult to understand at first, especially if you have biological kids you are used to sharing about. You want to celebrate their first steps or include them in a sweet family picture for Christmas. However, the reasoning is ultimately fairly simple. As a foster parent, children placed in my home are not mine. Therefore, their faces, names, and other personal information, is not mine to give. Social media use is a very personal decision for anyone. I have friends that have no social media. I also have friends that do not show their children on their social media for a variety of reasons. That is their choice to make for themselves and for their children.
There often are safety concerns with photos being shared. When a child is placed in a foster home, the biological parents and other parties involved are not provided contact information. This includes the name of the foster parents or their address. Sometimes this information is given out over time when appropriate with permission from the foster parents. Overall, the safety of the children and the foster parents is a large piece of social media restrictions.
Options for Sharing
Despite the rules, there are still ways to incorporate all your kiddos into your social media if you choose. Checking with your social worker first is always a good idea, as different counties or states may have different rules. They may also have more specific feedback to your case as to why a certain option may or may not be a good idea.
A very common option I’ve seen with other foster families I am connected with is to place emojis or shapes over the child’s face. This allows families to share any photos they take with this small tweak that maintains privacy but still includes the child. I’ve seen everything from a heart emoji to simple circle shapes.
When it comes to names, utilizing the child’s initials or giving them a “nickname” is common as well. We use this personally to share funny quotes or anecdote that includes the child without providing too much personal information.
While these rules apply to social media and public sharing, there are still ways to share photos with friends and family. We have a couple friends with private Facebook groups where they share photos of the kids in their care. These groups are closed and the members are only friends and family that know them personally. This maintains privacy for the kids as the photos are only seen by people that already know them and the family they are placed with.
Our Personal Choice
While there is nothing wrong with any of the above options if deemed appropriate by the child’s social worker, we decided on a different option for our family. I was very prepared to use emojis or other methods to cover our kids’ faces, but something changed in me the first time I went to do it. Personally, placing something over their sweet smiles, sparkling eyes, or rosy cheeks just felt wrong. I felt like I was taking away some little piece of their humanity by putting a smiling emoji over it. I also tried a neutral colored oval in another post. However, that also felt wrong to me.
After talking it over with my husband, we decided any photos we shared on social media of our kids would be from the backside. Any posed photos would have them facing the opposite direction. We would take any of our candid pictures from behind. This allowed us to work within the rules, but gave us the feeling of still keeping them “unaltered”. Has it been more difficult to capture these photos? Absolutely. The little ones never want to look at the camera in group photos UNTIL we try to take the one with them looking away.
Our method for sharing photos with friends and family is to have a shared photo album on our phones. We set up our album through our Photos app for iPhone. This way we can easily upload photos and videos every couple days. This allows anyone in the album to view and comment and they are notified when new items are added.
Everyone is Different
We hold no judgment towards how other foster families choose to share their journey and photos of their kiddos. I also know some families that do not post photos or talk about the kiddos at all. We absolutely respect that as well. For us, this balance has worked well and felt right for us. We recognize that any future placements may change our views or we may need to adapt in different circumstances.
Respecting the privacy of the child in your care as well as their family is at the core of this rule. They have the right to privacy and the right to choose what parts of their story are on social media for the world.