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There are so many topics I could use when this phrase comes up: “when we began the process of fostering…” In part that is because of all the assumptions and preconceived ideas associated with fostering. Some of the notions we had were spot on while others not so much. When it comes to confidentiality and how it applies to each case, our ideas of implied privacy were not too far off.
Our society is at a stage where there is a struggle between private and public knowledge. Half of society wants to post every little emotion and be followed by a million people. The other half is wondering where any kind of implied privacy has disappeared to. Because of that we can no longer assume something is so; it needs to be defined, labeled, and made crystal clear. That is certainly true for every aspect of the foster care system.
We thought one could assume that each child is due his/her privacy especially since the system is clear on how foster parents must handle it. Foster parents are required to sign contracts for a multitude of reasons, one being that we must not discuss personal aspects of a case. When tackling that bit of privacy we also thought there was an unstated rule for not sharing information of any kind on social media. Soon after becoming foster parents that unstated rule became an official policy. The policy (in Tennessee) is not as strict as one would assume. Yet it is also meant to protect all parties involved, which sometimes feels laughable.
On social media foster parents are allowed to share that we have a placement, the age and possibly gender. We can not share specifics like a full name or the names of the parents. An approved nickname may be used. While we can share family photos that the placement may be in, most still need prior approval. This is also the case for status updates that concern the foster child. Approval can be done at the discretion of the caseworker if the child is very young otherwise it must also involve the consent of the child and the child’s family team. Sometimes policies and rules, like these, may seem to be excessive however it is as much for the protection of the placement as it is for the foster family.
Privacy is a wonderful thing. So much with the foster system seems invasive and as if there is no such thing as privacy. It feels like ones movements and actions are scrutinized, not just the foster child but also the foster family. People are treated like mechanical things that need to be kept tabs on with a high level of accountability. On paper it all makes perfect sense because of the foster children who have being taken advantage of by the system, the foster family, or the birth family. In practice it certainly feels as if there is no such thing as privacy.
While foster families must keep close tabs on their social media posts, birth families are still allowed to post whatever they feel. This can be hard as they are allowed to post pictures from court sanctioned visits while foster families may not be allowed to post a family photo. To make matters more interesting (in the state of Tennessee) foster children are not permitted to have Facebook or other social media accounts.
There are a lot of blurry and confusing lines in the foster system. Privacy is one of those. On one hand we are due a certain amount of privacy but on the other we need to be aware that as a foster parent privacy is only an allusion.