Mother speaks out after foster parent posts photos of her kids online

A Manitoba woman whose children are in foster care is speaking out after seeing pictures of her kids online.

The woman, who can’t be identified according to the Manitoba Child and Family Services Act, says the foster mother of her kids posted pictures of them on Facebook.

She feels that posting her children’s photos violates the privacy of her entire family, and puts her kids at risk, especially to online bullying.

The mother discovered the pictures two years ago when a friend saw them posted by the foster mom, a mutual friend. She says some of the photo captions were mocking her child’s speech impediment.

“I was surprised to see my children online and I was very disappointed,” said the woman. “It’s inappropriate and unacceptable.”

Releasing any information concerning foster children violates CFS rules, but a government spokesperson says the policy may need to be updated to include social media.

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“We expect our child welfare authorities to ensure foster families keep all information concerning foster children absolutely confidential,” said Jean-Marc Prevost, spokesperson for the Manitoba government.

Currently, the CFS does not have a social media policy for foster parents for branches in Manitoba, B.C., Ontario or Nova Scotia.

Although the mother says she first saw photos of her kids online in 2011, and complained to a CFS social worker about it, Prevost said this is the first they are hearing about the case.

The mother said as of two weeks ago, the pictures were still online.

“I read [the foster mother’s] status update and it leaves me with the impression that she’s quite comfortable with posting pictures of the children in her care on her Facebook,” she said.

The mother also has grandchildren in care with another family, and when she searched them she found pictures online as well.

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Global News contacted one of the foster parents, but she would not confirm she posted the pictures.

Social work professor at the University of Missouri Dale Fitch says agencies across North American are behind in the area of ever-changing social media, and is afraid of what could happen if the policies are not updated.

“What I’m afraid of – and what typically happens – is something really bad happens and then a task force or commission is set up and then policy is developed after the fact,” Fitch said. “The social media policies are needed for all of the people involved in the process. So, not just foster families, but youth in care and the agencies and social workers working with these youth.”

Provincial authorities say they were unaware of the issue and will look at updating the term “media” in the foster parents’ manual.

With files from Crystal Goomansingh


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