Internet privacy vs internet support

A month ago, I was grieving the loss of one of my foster children. Our foster home was empty. But foster homes rarely stay empty for long! We have two new boys, brothers, both preschoolers. We’ve had them for a couple weeks now, and I have delayed posting about them. Nicknames haven’t come easily for them. And I did not know how to post about the struggles I am having with them, while still respecting their privacy.

Things on the internet don’t disappear! Even if I deleted a post from here, or deleted my blog entirely, there are ways my posts could still be read. Perhaps someone copied it. Perhaps someone emailed it to themselves. Search engines keep copies of pages in their records for indeterminate amounts of time. For that matter, the beginning of each post is included in the email you receive if you subscribed to receive my posts by email.

Obviously, nothing I say about my foster children is in any way identifying. Unless you already know the child personally, nothing I say would enable you to pick the child out of a crowd.

But thinking 20 years down the line… adults who used to be children in foster care do know themselves personally, and it is entirely possible that one of my previous foster children may find my blog and … recognize themselves. The dates will line up. Ages will line up. Descriptions… positive or negative… will line up. What do I want my former foster children to read about themselves? What attitude toward them do I want to display for them to read later? What amount of information is fair for me to share about them in a public forum?

And yet, the internet is also a wonderful source of support! I love the comments of support that I get, the suggestions, the encouragement. And I don’t want to give that up. If I gave it up, I wouldn’t be as good of a foster mother. (“Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.”)

So, I am seeking a middle ground. My blog posts will have a different tone to them. Mostly, I will not be providing the details that I provided with the two toddler kids I had in months previous to this. The children I have now are … challenging … to say the least. Their stories are heartbreaking. Their family is shattered. Their behaviors reflect this. It’s their reality.

My reality right now is being punched. Kicked. Spit on. Called names. Sworn at. Replacing broken light fixtures.

But my reality is also holding a child while he sobs because he misses his family and is old enough to articulate that while seeking comfort from me. My reality is having a valentine heart made for me by one of them. My reality is wearing a pipecleaner “bow” in my hair all evening because one of the children made it for me. My reality is a child who never tried stir-fry declaring it “yum” and asking for seconds, please!

I will take extra precautions in safeguarding these children’s identities. I will still post about my home, and about the struggles my husband and I face being foster parents to them. But I won’t give nicknames for them, and I won’t even state their ages. They’ll be “the preschoolers” or “one of the preschoolers”. And in every post I will make it abundantly clear that I love them. I am an adult, and I can love who I choose to love. I choose to love these children, and to display that love through my actions.

Twenty years from now, I hope I can show these posts to the (former) preschoolers, and have them know that despite how they acted, they were loved, and no matter what they did, the love was stronger than their behaviors.

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