Adoption and Online Privacy: What You Should Know

The day before my husband and I flew to Ethiopia to meet our new two-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, we needed to fulfill one last adoption agency requirement: a full day of training on “adopting the older child.” I will always be grateful to our instructors, a pair of veteran adoptive moms, who candidly offered up their knowledge, insight, and even a few of their regrets.

“Looking back, I wish I hadn’t shared so much of my child’s personal history with others,” one of our teachers confessed. “If I could do it over, I’d be much more discreet.”

Let Your Child Tell Their Story

Respecting your adopted child’s privacy emerged as the key topic that day. “Your child didn’t choose to be adopted,” we were told. “At least let her control who gets to hear her story, and when they get to hear it.”

Today, as the mother of two preteens and a teenage daughter (also adopted), that old advice remains resonant. We’ve always talked openly at home about the lives our children lived before joining our family, but my husband and I have mastered the art of politely deflecting questions from curious outsiders, and we let our kids choose who is privy to their most personal information.

Managing Online Privacy

But what if you’re a proud mom or dad who just wants to blog and share photos with friends and family for fun? Or a struggling parent who wants to connect with other adoptive families dealing with the same issues? One thorny topic our teachers didn’t address back in 2006 was managing privacy online.

Even if you think that no one beyond your inner circle will ever read your little adoption blog or follow your tweets, it’s wise to keep in mind that once an anecdote about your son or a snapshot of your daughter is released on the Internet, you have lost control of it forever. The safest option for parents is finding an online platform with clear privacy controls: a secret, invitation-only Facebook group; a password-protected blog; a secure CaringBridge website; or simply an old-fashioned email sent only to people you personally know.

Advice for New Adoptive Parents

We live in a time in which privacy is shrinking, and while it may be tempting to share every cute photo of your child on Instagram, or to crowd source solutions to every parenting quandary on your Facebook page, your first priority should always be making choices that nurture and promote a loving and respectful relationship with your child. I encourage you to follow the great advice that I received as a new adoptive parent and as your child grows, let them take an active role in determining how their story is told and shared.

Sharon Van Epps is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sun, Adoptive Families, Huffington Post, and Motherlode at The New York Times. She blogs about adoption at Be Bold or Go Home and
What Things Are True: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the World of International Adoption. You can find her on Twitter @sharonvanepps.

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