Facebook risk for children who are adopted

Social networking websites such as Facebook can pose a serious risk to adopted children who can be easily tracked down by birth relatives they may not be ready to meet, a charity has warned.

While there are no precise figures on the number of children who have been contacted in this way, David Holmes, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF), says the phenomenon is a growing concern.

"It's not just Facebook, it's the whole phenomenon of social networking and social media. There is a very positive side to it, because it's a way of keeping in contact with lots of people very easily... But equally, by having lots of friends and posting identifying information online, that information could be misused in the wrong hands," he told The Independent.

"For children who – for whatever reason – may need to keep some privacy and to be quite careful about online safety, this is a real issue."

Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, a birth relative would normally have to wait until the adopted child turns 18 to initiate contact. This would usually be done via a third party – such as the adoption agency or a local authority – with procedures in place designed to protect the confidentiality of both sides.

As some children do not know why they were placed in care, BAAF says, they may not understand the risky situation they may be putting themselves by disclosing personal details online or exchanging messages with a birth parent.

In cases where a child is not necessarily in physical danger, the charity's primary concern is theemotional impact of such a sudden and unexpected reunion.

"The problem is that this form of contact is potentially so fast and so immediate that all of the careful planning that would normally go into contact arrangements goes straight out the window," Mr Holmes said.

"If you were going to make contact with a birth relative, you might do it through an exchange of letters, or even through an exchange of photographs. Through this [social networking] route you can cut through this completely and find that within 10 minutes or an hour you're having an online conversation."

BAAF's advice for adoptive and foster parents includes: refraining from "tagging" their children in photos on Facebook; helping them adjust their privacy settings so that their profile cannot be seen publicly; ensuring they do not share their date of birth, address or school details; and making sure they know how to block other users if they are contacted and the contact is unwelcome.

According to Holmes, it is not just children who can become distressed due to unwanted contact from their birth relatives; adults approached by a child they gave up for adoption can find the situation equally upsetting. "There are lots of difficult issues wrapped up with adoption; there are lots of personal and emotional issues, and suddenly this form of networking can cut through all of those," he said. "It's an issue for birth families too."

There are dozens of Facebook groups dedicated to reuniting families separated by adoption. Most users post details of their or their child's birth in the hope that someone may recognise them. A few have written comments about successful reunions. "My first daughter found my second daughter on one of these sites, and now she has found me too," wrote one user from Northampton.

Adoption facts

*In total, 4,939 children were adopted in England and Wales in 2008. Just under half of children referred to the Adoption Register are in sibling groups of two or more.



*Some 72 per cent of children adopted in England in the year to 31 March 2009 were aged between one and four years, with the next most common age group being aged five to nine (23 per cent).



*Only 8 per cent of children adopted that year were adopted by single people rather than by couples. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 gave unmarried couples, civil partners and same-sex couples the right to adopt.



*The Act also granted birth relatives and interested parties the right to request information about an adopted person.



*The Office for National Statistics says 33 per cent of adoptees eventually request copies of their original birth records.



*Approximately 65,600 children are living in care in England and Wales.



*Of children entered into the Adopted Children Register in 2008, 78 per cent were born outside of marriage.



*The 1970s saw a huge decline in the number of children being put up for adoption in the UK, following the legalisation of abortion in the late 1960s.



*The Department for Children, Schools and Families received 225 applications for international adoptions in 2008.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little