An article from a recent Rainbow Kids e-newsletter, entitled Privacy Matters in Adoption, serves to remind adoptive and foster parents of a very important responsibility: we are the guardians of our child’s story.
As adoptive and foster parents we have many responsibilities that come with the privilege of loving and caring for the children that God has blessed us with. One of these responsibilties is to be wise and trustworthy guardians of our child’s story. When we adopt or foster, we are entrusted with all that is known of our child’s history, and some of this information can be sensitive and even sensational. But regardless of our child’s age, we must never forget that it is his information and his story. We do not own it and as a result we are not at liberty to share it freely. Instead, our responsibility is to protect our child by keeping the information private for our child until (in age appropriate ways) we can give it to her, and help her to understand it, make choices about whether and when to share it and, most importantly, discover meaning and purpose in it, most especially the difficult parts.
It is also important to remember that we are not keeping secrets but rather protecting another person (i.e., our child) by maintaining the confidentiality of his private information. As Jayne Schooler points out in her book Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, secrecy damages but confidentiality protects. The sensitive aspects of our child’s story are not shameful secrets that we keep but rather private information we protect. In doing so we can better love our children while also earning their trust and helping them grow.
When children are young, we encourage parents to ask this question when deciding whether to share sensitive information about their child: is this information something that I want my child to hear from me first? If the answer is ‘yes’, then the information should be protected and only shared with those who need to know or are closest to your family, and who are willing to share in the responsibility of being a wise and trustworthy guardian of your child’s story. As children get older, decisions about whether, when and what to share should largely be made by your child, especially if he is present. A great tool to help you and your school aged-child practice this is the W.I.S.E. UP Powerbook.
So whether it’s a nosey question from a stranger in the grocery store or a curious question from a well-meaning relative during the holidays, we must always think before we speak, keeping our children and our responsibility to them foremost in mind.