Social Media, Supervision, and Children in Foster Care

Dr. John DeGarmo
5 min readMar 18, 2024

Let us be clear. Social media is one of the most relevant issues facing foster care, and all children, today. While you as a parent might live in an online world, our children inhabit it. There is a big difference between the two. Let’s look at what the book Keeping Foster Children Safe Online has to say about this issue.

“More and more children in foster care are being contacted by their birth parents or biological family members online, particularly via social networking sites. In many cases, this contact occurs against the wishes of the foster parents and caseworkers. Once a child is taken into care, contact with birth parents is controlled and monitored via supervised visitations. During this meeting, a child welfare agent, or other social worker, is permitted the opportunity to assess the foster child’s relationship with his parents or family members, and determine how the parents are progressing in their level of readiness for possible reunification. Visitations also allow the opportunity for parents to practice parenting skills, which the social worker will also assess.

The danger lies in the fact that these contacts, these conversations, are often not supervised either by the foster parents or by the caseworker. Indeed, in many cases foster parents and caseworkers may be unaware that they are taking place at all. It is most difficult for foster parents and child welfare agents to monitor this type of communication, because there are so many ways that foster children could be contacted and this may not occur while the child is at home — children in foster care may be contacted through social network sites, on their cell phones, or home computers, or through online devices from a friend at school or a public library. If children place in foster care and foster parents are not careful to protect their personal data online, it can be quite easy for birth family members to track down a child by searching for names, birthdates, pictures, and locations; any type of information that might have been posted online can be used to trace a child for communication purposes. With the click of a few buttons, biological parents and birth family are suddenly able to communicate with a child in foster care.

Wherever a child from foster care has access to an online device, a biological family member has the ability to establish contact and communication with the child, and to do so without the knowledge of those entrusted to care for the child’s safety; foster parents and caseworkers. As a result this type of communication may jeopardize their chance to regain custody of their child. For those former foster children who have been adopted, a postadoption contract may have been signed and agreed upon by two families. This type of unmonitored contact will also damage relationships between the two families, as well as possibly jeopardizing the health and well being of the child.”

Online contact with birth parents is not always negative; sometimes it can help both foster child and birth parent. Facebook, TikTok, and other social media networking sites allow foster children and birth parents to remain in contact and communicate in real time, or instant dialogue. For those children placed into foster care who have been split up from their siblings and placed into different foster homes, social network sites offer an opportunity for them to stay connected. Pictures and photographs can be shared allowing the child the opportunity to continue relationships that are important to him, and which enable him to heal from the separation from his family. Birth parents are able to use social networking to help in their healing process, too. The incentive of regular contact with the child, plus the benefit of seeing pictures and posts on the child’s homepage, may encourage birth parents and biological family members to work even harder on their caseload, in the hopes of reunification with their loved one. As noted earlier, it is imperative that proper supervision be maintained.

If you and your child from foster care placed in your home have a positive working relationship with the birth family, then social media contact might be an option, but make sure to consult with your caseworker as they should be involved in this decision. Birth parents and foster parents can use social network sites to remain in contact, as both work to support the child. Foster parents can give regular updates on the child’s progress, including school behavior, and emotional well-being. Foster parents can also contact birth parents with any questions they might have regarding their foster child’s past. Again, this type of communication might motivate the birth parents as they work their own caseload.

Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert in parenting and foster care and is a TEDx Talk presenter. Dr. John is the founder and director of The Foster Care Institute. He and his wife have had over 60 children from foster care come through their home. He is an international consultant to schools, legal firms, and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer for schools, child welfare, businesses, and non profit organizations. He is the author of several books, including Keeping Foster Children Safe Online, and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN, FOX News, Good Morning, America, ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS stations across the nation. He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo Foster Care Expert, or at The Foster Care Institute.



Dr. John DeGarmo

Leading foster care expert and international empowerment speaker