In NV, our training seemed to say we had to avoid all publishing,, so when I signed up J. for school, I had to sign that his name/ photo would not be released- this included the yearbook. Now, he is only 5, so the yearbook isn't a big deal, but this would be sad for a middle schooler! It surprised me because on one hand the agency wants kids to be treated like 'normal' kids, but 'normal' kids get their name in the paper with their little league team... Or their picture in the yearbook! I get confidentiality and protecting the safety of kids- but it seems like that could be handled on a case by case basis, rather than a blanket policy, just like a biological family might need to do the same to protect a child.
There is also a no Internet policy, ( though my fostering friend who is also a social worker for DCFS regulalry posts pics of her foster son on Facebook, but they are very close to adoption, and we are not). Wondering how others handle this- do you post pics of kids to Facebook/twitter/photobucket/whatever? In my case, everything on my FB is super private, and I talk about the boys by first name, but no pics. However, there are pics of my son (thats why I started the FBPage-to share pics of him with the family).
So, what are your official or personal guidelines about this?
I'm not sure what the official stance is (if there is one) where i live, and whether it is county, state, or agency mandated. But generally when i've had a foster child i would only refer to them by initial of first name when i was posting anything about them, even on facebook, unless rights were terminated and i knew i was adopting. I didnt post pictures showing their face until i got close to adoption (and then only because on my FB its mostly people i know, not hundreds of people i dont know)...i tried to be rather anonymous about details, but i'm pretty bad with that and probably put too much private info out there (such as on message boards like this) even though i wasnt posting pics or names, i still put alot of details out there i probably shouldnt have (just about visits and whatnot.)
I dont THINK things like a yearbook would be an issue, it was never mentioned to me, in fact i'd think those things would be important for a child to have. Its sad to me that they would prevent that. Also, my daughter's elementary school has a yearbook and there are random candid shots of kids doing projects, in class, etc...no names attached (other than perhaps "Mrs. So and So's 3rd Grade Class Makes a Splash!" or some such thing) but face shots, yes. It would totally single the child out to say that they couldnt be in any of those pictures, and how sad for the kid! My dd treasures every pic she is in, because she has NOTHING from before she moved in (oh except one photo from a project in class a few months before she came)...no pics of friends, teachers, nothing. Its like telling her she didnt exist...nothing concrete to back up memories that will no doubt fade.
I think some of it too might depend on the birthparent situation, what they have to sign off on, whether there are safety issues, etc...i got the feeling w/ my agency once the child was made a state ward, it was pretty much up to the foster parent, they didnt really care. There was alot i did not ask about, i just did.
I'm in Michigan. About a year ago, the state Department of Human Services sent a letter to all foster parents asking us to use caution and common sense and avoid posting things on Facebook, etc., that could cause a confidentiality issue for the kids in our care. They mentioned that even if you post something like, "Took in a new foster placement today," in some circles they could easily figure out who you are. They asked for extra caution for fostered teens as they may post things, as well.
I was paranoid at first when my first foster son was still having visits with his birthmother. He was an infant, so I once posted a picture of his feet in the sand to show a day at the beach. I was OK with showing the top of his head when he was in a baby carrier. Now he is pre-adoptive with finalization coming soon, so I'm much more open.
With my second foster son (adopted last week, yay!), he came to us with birthparent rights terminated so I would have felt more comfortable posting pics, BUT we live in a very small, rural community (30,000 people in the whole county) so there was a chance a friend of a friend could have recognized him. I've lightened up a bit now that I realize his birthfamily is focused more on other things than finding him on my Facebook page. : ) Of course I do have privacy settings set to friends only. I won't be putting his picture in my profile pic for a good long time because those are by default public. I feel comfortable that I don't have friends who would share my son's picture.
We have asked family not to post pics of our kids on Facebook, Flickr, etc., without asking.
I would also personally take it on a case-by-case basis as far as a yearbook and things like that. We fostered school-age siblings temporarily and the parents knew what town we lived in, just not our last names. The people had some issues, of course, but I had no fear of them coming after us or coming to find their kids outside the system. If I were fostering the child of a parent with a criminal background who might want to come seek us or the child out, I would be more cautious about protecting the child's picture.
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In my area, we are supposed to just use common sense. I've never been told that I can't post first names and pictures on FB so I do. But, if I had a case that warranted more caution, I'd definitely do that. The kids can be in yearbooks, class pictures,etc. Unless there's a reason for strict confidentiality.
The yearbook thing has more to do with the school. The agency requires that kids face/names not be published, but it seems like they are more concerned about newspapers and online type things. They did specifically say no names in the newspaper. Unfortunately, the school policy is all or nothing; so when I sign that his name can't be released, it covers everything - it doesn't allow to pick and choose what venues the name can or can't be released in. It is probably hard for schools ot keep track of this sort of thing; I guess an all or nothing policy covers their bases. Maybe next time we have a school age child I will be more proactive in discussing this when we enroll.
I'm in NV too but in our training the rationale for the law was explained: it's to protect children who truly need identity protection. Every now and then there are kids in care who need extra protection from bio family or other people who intend to kidnap or harm them. I guess there was a case a while back where a foster parent revealed too much information and the kid was kidnapped and killed. So... in our training they said that it's OK to allow photos in newspapers etc so long as the child is not identified by name, particularly group photos are OK. They said that some foster parents have blogs and blur out the kids faces.
When it comes to the kids posting things themselves (like on facebook), that's hard to control. But there are laws about that too. Age 13 and up, remember? that's for ALL kids. But our DFS doesn't know about that law or just doesn't care. For example, on the same day that there were national headlines about the age cutoff for kids and facebook, there was a meeting once with caseworker and other child welfare professionals and lawyers - they were talking about some of the older kids using facebook. And get this, NO ONE in the room except my husband and I knew the law that says kids under 13 can't have facebook accounts. Some people in the room thought it was age 18 and others said there was no age limit and they finally agreed to let the 11 year old keep his facebook account and post pictures of himself with his shirt off! I'll leave out some other details that make this a particularly poor decision, but let's just say this was another huge red flag to me that the fostercare system is totally broken. They are just completely out of touch with reality.
All of that said, I was told by workers at my community center that in order to enroll my son in any of the activities (sports, art, music, etc.) that I had to sign a waiver to allow photos to be taken of him. I explained our situation and how it was illegal to publish photos of foster kids without their bio parents consent but that made no difference. So I signed the form and crossed out the portion about the photos and wrote that I did not allow that. They accepted it and let us enroll but I just know his photo might be used somewhere anyway. I just decided it was an acceptable gamble. In all liklihood, if the photo gets published it won't have a name attached to it.
Sometimes following the fostercare laws makes it virtually impossible to treat your foster kids like kids.