Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Confidentiality Rules

I want to reflect honestly about my experiences in foster care. It is good for me to have a place to do this and it might just help other people who are doing or are thinking about doing foster care. One thing I have learned is that how you deal with different youth depends largely on who they are, which depends upon their histories.

However I am also required to maintain the confidentiality of the children in my care.

So here are the guidelines/principles.

First, all the kids I am currently thinking about are 18 or above, or are my legal children. I have told them about the blog and am writing with their permission. This allows me to be more relaxed than I think I would be otherwise.

Second, I am doing everything I can to be annonymous. All the names are fake. I am not telling where I live or exactly what I do. I am also not telling the vast majority of people in my ordinary life that I am doing this. Anybody who really knows me and reads it will be able to figure out that it is me -- but they will also be people who already knew all the personal information in the blog.

Third, I ask myself whose story am I telling. Am I sharing my journey and telling only as much of the youth's story as is necessary to share that journey? Or am I just talking about the youth? This is a difficult question for me, and one which I return to. I may reconsider various posts, sometimes editing or deleting them, sometimes moving them to the private blog.

The biggest danger, of course, is that the kids know and may tell someone whose idea of what is mine to share and what is not mine differs from that which guides me here. That is a risk I am going to take. It would be safer not to write at all, but I choose to write.

Most of the foster parent blogs out there are actually foster/adopt blogs. Only a few of us are doing foster care for its own sake. I have no judgment about the value of one compared to the other, only the observation that they can be different. Reading the blogs of people whose journey is similar to mine has helped me. Perhaps reading about my journey will be helpful to others considering fostering.

So I will take the risk. If the only stories of foster parents that exist in the world are those told by the media, then we foster parents will forever appear to be either incomprehensible saints or incomprehensible monsters. We are, of course, neither. Though we may question our own sanity in doing this, though our hearts will break again and again as we love children who will never be entirely "ours", though we may find ourselves in trouble for doing something as simple as sharing the joys and heartaches of raising the children we love, we are in the end simply ordinary people struggling to do what we find we must do. We have good days and bad days.

Writing about it and reading others write about it is one of the things that helps me to do it.

If you are reading this, I hope it helps you too.

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Some updates. Though it seemed right to tell the initial batch of kids about the blog and get their feedback on it, I have learned that expecting them to keep my secrets is unfair to them. So the respite kids don't know about it and I don't expect to tell newer kids who come into my life. There is another private blog where I still don't share everything, but where I do struggle with my journey when it deals with those of minor children or anything that is especially sensitive. See the side-bar for information about asking to read it if you like. I usually only open it up to people who my tracking program tells me have been around for a while.

2 comments:

  1. I am really enjoying your thought processes and your clever writing. I'm going to stick around and read lots more.

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  2. I am so thankful for this tip! I recently have had to place my teenage daughter. I am so caught in the how do I keep it quiet and get the help I am desperate for! I totally don't know what to do, what I need to do...This was a nice reality check into why I am really writing.

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Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.