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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests