Hundreds of adopted children in the United Kingdom have been contacted by their birth parents, who used social media sites like Facebook to track them down. One adoption support group in Victoria says the process can be illegal, and a mother of three adopted children in the UK says it can be highly traumatic.
Adopted children can sometimes spend their whole lives wondering about their birth parents because the search process through official channels can take years. One adopted teenager in the UK received a message on Facebook saying “Hello, I am your father.
I have been searching for you ever since you were stolen by social services. You look beautiful. I love you so much.” The father who wrote the message is a registered paedophile, whose children were removed by social services and later adopted.
It’s a development that has concerned some psychologists, who fear the destabilizing impact that kind of sudden contact could have.
In Britain, health services fear that some birth parents, and in particular those who may have been abusive in the past, could track down their birth children via sites like Facebook to establish or re-establish contact. Some psychologists have reported that adopted children have displayed troubled behavior after their parents had unexpectedly re-established contact ::::
“Actually it’s an enormous surprise, it’s hijacking, it’s an ambush when it’s just an email that arrives via Facebook or some other social networking site that says, ‘hello do you remember me? I think I am your birth mum,'” says British author Helen Oakwater, a mother of three adopted children. One of Ms Oakwater’s children was contacted by a birth parent through Facebook. She says the consequences were devastating and has written a book about the experience called Bubble Wrapped Children. The book says unexpected contact with birth relatives has re-traumatised children, and she has seen some run away from home and others drop out of school.
“Facebook allows access from the age of 13,” Ms Oakwater said. “And I certainly know of cases where people have been contacted within a year or two of that, certainly 15 year olds.”
Is using Facebook to trace your birth parents a human right? or WRONG!?
Biological parents are increasingly using Facebook to stalk the children they gave up for adoption, the use of social media to to stalk and harass children they long ago gave up for adoption. Wikipedia describes as stalking “…a term commonly used to refer to unwanted and obsessive attention by an individual to another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person and/or monitoring them via the internet. The word stalking is used, with some differing meanings, in psychology and psychiatry and also in some legal jurisdictions as a term for a criminal offense.”
As a result of these mostly unwanted actions, adoption agencies in the UK are reporting a spike of calls from adoptive parents whose kids were contacted by their natural parents. Adoption UK chief executive Jonathan Pearce referred to the phenomenon as “intrusive and unplanned communication,” stating that it is becoming nearly impossible now to guarantee the confidentiality of adoptive parents and children.
Many adoption agencies now operate what they call a “clean break” adoption procedure, which means that birth relatives are less likely to have been given the adopted name of their child, hampering a search later on, and equally a parent who adopts may be provided with little information about the identity of the birth parents.
In the UK contact between birth parents and the children they give up for adoption traditionally has been limited to a process whereby adoptive parents send birth parents letters and photos, Facebook is changing all of that. In one instance, an unidentified adoptive mother said her adopted daughter was contacted by her birth mother via Facebook out of the blue. She was 16 years old when she received the message, but had been removed from the birth mother’s home at the age of seven due to abuse and neglect.
The adoptive mother told reporters that her teenage daughter now had a better life and maybe didn’t want to be reminded of her tough beginning: “Our daughter, who is our prime concern, has gone from no contact from her birth family, at the hands of whom she had a difficult start in life, to suddenly finding they are there at the press of a button.”
Stalking a child given up for adoption through Facebook or other social networks is not an appropriate way to reconnect.
The ease with which birth parents can use technology to get in touch with their children without warning and without following established safeguards has alarmed adoption agencies. Families who have been contacted have described the experience as like being in a slow motion car crash, leaving them battered and bruised, some families have been torn apart.
“Social networking sites have blown things open, you can’t keep things secret,” said Julia Feast, consultant at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering – BAAF – which campaigns for the rights of children in care.
“It really unsettles the whole family,” she told Reuters. “It’s like a bomb being thrown inside it and you don’t know how you are going to pull the pieces together again if children are not being prepared.”
Since 2005, adopted adults and their birth relatives have had the legal right to ask for intermediary services from an approved agency to help them make contact with each other, but this can be turned down if there are concerns following an assessment. It is unknown how many birth parents are using social networking sites to get around this, but BAAF said it was receiving more and more cases.
“We have heard some horror stories, but how frequently it is happening we just don’t know,” Feast added. “I think we have to accept that this is the way people communicate these days and that more and more people will resort to this as a way of trying to find relatives, we can’t ignore it but we have to be pro-active so people can manage it if it does happen.”
BAAF wants the government to put in place a system where agencies and adoptive parents can get in touch and share their experiences, learning from each other. It is not just birth parents who are getting in touch. Adopted children, especially if they are at the age when they begin to suffer angst and are looking to rebel, are logging on.
Facebook and Other Social Network Sites Pose a Serious Threat to Adopted Children, According to a Leading UK Charity.
In Australia, Colleen Clare, the general manager of Victorian adoption support group VANISH, says she is aware of dozens of cases in Australia where parents have contacted children through Facebook and vice versa. She says unplanned contact is a problem for children who already know their birth families, as well as children adopted at birth who are desperate for more information about their birth relatives.
“The problem with that is that it can lead you down a lot of false trails or it could expose somebody who is not prepared for that,” Colleen Clare said. “I mean some people, as an example, may never have told their partner or their children that they have given up a child for adoption.
Colleen Clare says the relevant legislation is outdated and support groups are under-resourced. “Information comes out in a haphazard way and that can be very hurtful and damaging.”
She also says birth relatives who make contact through Facebook may not know they could be breaking the law. “Personally I think if you were to do it publicly, in a way that was not acceptable to the person, then they probably do have protections that they could call upon under the privacy laws,” Colleen Clare said.
The Department of Family and Community Services in New South Wales says it has seen isolated cases. But the chief executive of adoption agency Barnados in NSW, Louise Voigt, says the laws in her state mean contact with birth relatives is much more open than in other states, so Facebook is less of a problem. “In New South Wales we have a system of open adoption, that is children that are adopted have opportunity to see their parents, or their parents have opportunity to see them,” Ms Voigt said.
source: the guardian