That Time I Was a Christmas Villain (a series on confidentiality in foster care)

*This is part one in a series discussing the importance of confidentiality in foster care. Click the following links to read more: Part Two | Part Three | Part Four*

If you work in the medical field, or in social work, law, education, etc... you know this:

Confidentiality matters.

It matters for very obvious reasons and for SO many reasons beyond what is completely obvious.

I'm writing about this topic from a foster parenting perspective... One that I didn't always understand or hold for myself... at least not until I became a foster parent and loved not only the child in my home, but also his mom, his brother and sister, his grandparents, his great grandparents, his cousins, his aunts and his uncles...

To be completely honest, I hadn't thought too much about any of these people beyond him and his mom, who, in my pre-foster parenting ignorance, I assumed some pretty terrible and completely false things about.

So when it came to sharing his chubby cheeks and thighs for days, what could it hurt, right? Guys, it was Christmas time. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?? How could I keep this gift to myself when all I wanted to do was tell the world what a blessing and gift I had received!?!? Sooo... naturally I did the obvious... what any proud new mom would do: I shared his cute little tush on Facebook.

The problem...?  I wasn't his mom that Christmas.

Somebody else was.

And guess what... for the same reasons that I knew her name, she knew my name. And so did her family.

I didn't realize it at the time, but when I posted that sweet little penguin tush publicly on Facebook I was doing a lot more than sharing my immense joy with the world. I was sharing somebody else's enormous, devastating and tragic loss with the world. And please note: I wasn't just sharing it privately... I was celebrating it publicly, and inviting my Facebook world to celebrate it with me.

Y'all... the instant I hit 'post', I became a Christmas villain!

And I lived as that villain for a while without even knowing it.

Then one day, I met that sweet baby boy's mom... and then I met the rest of his family, and as I grieved over my villain heart, I began witnessing God changing it. It was not easy, it was a painful yet refining fire... it ached to see the dark filthiness of my heart, and at the same time was so beautiful to see the sanctifying work God did in all of that villainous mess.

No more than a minute after we met his family, they became our family. I have cherished these people from the moment I met them... so the day one of these people I love shared with me the pain that she felt that Christmas day when she searched my name on Facebook to find a stranger celebrating something that was so deeply devastating to her and her family... that's the day I realized I didn't get it... not even a little bit. I didn't get any of the true reasons why confidentiality in foster care is so important.

I think I get it now, or at least some of it.... and I know that I crossed the line many times. No doubt, I learned this the hard way... but I’m grateful that I learned it, and I hope you’ll read on, as I’d like to share some of what I have learned on this important topic from my experiences in respite care with teenagers and as a foster and adoptive parent.

In the next couple of posts, I’ll lay out why I believe it is so important to keep confidential the faces, names and details of these children we have the opportunity to love, whether for a short time or forever. Then I’ll share some thoughts on how to go about doing that in a world of social media and curiosity, and of course, some of my own failures and observations that led me to these points.