Monday, March 10, 2014

No Blurred Photos for Me Please

There a few things in the world of foster care that rub me the wrong way.

There is the obvious - unnecessary moves, unqualified foster parents who don't real like kids, disrespect for birth families who are fighting to get their kids back.  

And the not so obvious - blogs that over-share about kids personal stories and the ol' I-can't-actually-post-a-photo-of-my-foster-child so instead, I will still post the photo but blur out their face or put a sticker right smack in the middle of their face to "hide" their identity, thing.

--> like so

I've blurred a face once or twice in my time.  I get the temptation.  The children we have been entrusted with are precious and adorable & we want to share them with the world!

But seeing a sweet child with their identity masked, as if they had done something to be ashamed of, actually hurts me.  As if we're ashamed, as if we should be ashamed.  The rest of the family can smile away and have their photo proudly displayed.  We can see their smiles, their tears, their sas-a-frash-i-will-NOT-smile for another photo attitude.  

Yet, the foster child's face, their expression, who they are is hidden. They are there and yet they are not. 

That type of photo gives us the ability to show off the child we love, but not who they are.  Not really.  And all of us who have known a child whose been through the system, knows what amazing, full, and complete people they are.  With a whole story before, during and after their time in foster care.   

I want my child to know that I have always been proud of in all her intricacies, sass and realness.  I want people to see her face for real, her whole face (in photos or in person) the first time they see her.  She is a whole.  Not a body, but no identity.  So I didn't post ANY pictures publicly until I could announce that she was officially adopted.  And I still do only very, very rarely on public sites.  Because she isn't the poster child for adoption, foster care.  She is her own person, every hilarious, wonderful, personable inch of her.

We can debate all day long if photos in general should or shouldn't be allowed on blogs/social media/etc.  I realize regulations are different in every area.  And I understand the reasons behind the regulations - these are children that we have been entrusted with but are not OURS, its for the safety of the children and for our families.  And to maintain the privacy of the entire birth family.

But I would ask, beg even, you to not share pictures at all until you can share all of them or pass them all on.  The blur or the cute heart sticker, takes away from the person-hood of the very child you are trying to make more real.  

Wait - I promise it will be wonderful on the day when you can share (if they are adopted) or on the day when you can no longer share (but can give all of your wonderful, un-blurred photos to their birth family or to their adoptive family).  

Either way, you are giving that child and their forever family a gift, the precious gift of honoring the intricacies and beauty of each individual, precious, unique little life (and face).

14 comments :

  1. I think I agree with you. I've never done a blurred photo of any of our sweet fosters - just feels wrong somehow.

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    1. Me too, I didn't really stop to think why until recently, it just always rubbed me the wrong way.

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  2. Thanks for your post. I came across your blog from Pinterest! My husband and I are in the process of being licensed for Foster Care. We have signed a confidentiality agreement so we can't share ANY pictures, even blurry ones, for the sake of privacy for the families involved on blogs or social media at all. We will foster children who are local and it's possible that someone may recognize the children, I suppose. I blog and have been struggling with how to share about the little lives that will be in our home. I go back and forth between wanted to honor their privacy and - exactly what you've said - not being ashamed. There's no way I would be ashamed of them for anything they've gone through because they obviously haven't asked for it. However, since there are certain things I CAN'T share, do I not share at all? This isn't a question I expect you to answer...just trying continue conversation and answer it for myself. Thanks again for this post. It's a great perspective.

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    1. Its a tricky line to figure out. My guideline is only posting things that I would be okay with the child, their birth family and my social worker to read / see, weeds out most of my "spur of the moment" thoughts that would get me into trouble.

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  3. Thank you for your beautiful words! We foster youth are more than just what happened to us, we are people and our stories may be non-traditional, but they are ours and our individuality and person-hood should be valued the same as anyone else's. Don't degrade us and don't put us on a pedestal. Just treat us like the normal people we are.

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  4. I had never thought of that in this way before! I'm not involved in foster care, but would love to be someday and this was insightful.

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  5. I have mixed feelings about this. I was confronted with this issue long before becoming a foster parent in my role as an educator and Girl Scout Leader. I always had a child or two whose parents chose not to sign a media release, which meant they could not be in group photos that they were visibly identifiable. After having conversations with the responsible adults and the actual children, many of the kids actually wanted to be part of the picture, even if it meant having their face obscured. They wanted that feeling of belonging, but they also understood the reasons for not showing their faces. For one little Girl Scout, her eyes lit up when I asked her to be part of the picture and hold the troop number sign in front of her face. For so many years, she hadn't been allowed to be part of group pictures - and in her life, it meant that she hadn't belonged. All of the girls received a copy of the troop picture as part of the end-of-year gift. This little girl's foster mom said that it was one of her most treasured items. Even years later, after having been adopted, she still says it was the first time she felt like she was allowed to belong and keeps it hanging in her bedroom.

    In my family, we have created "Wilson" (nicknamed so after the character in the TV show Home Improvement that never showed his face) pictures. Even the birth parents of "traditional" families have elected not to share their children's images in the public media forum. However, it is also understood that as a family, they are part of the pride and joy. The "Wilson" pictures have allowed the kids to be part of the family, but retained the privacy of the child and family. Since the "Wilson" pictures are not done through editing, but rather in how the photographer takes the picture, it has become a new genre of photographing in our family. Each kiddo now has a photo album of "Wilson" pictures growing up.

    I completely understand the reasons on both sides - it's so hard to know what to do. But, I also think it is like each child - an individual decision.

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    1. You bring up a good point - if the child is old enough to tell you what he/she wants, no picture posted or one that hides the face, rock on. Do what the kid wants. :) But, the vast majority of kids I see this done to are not even able to speak or understand yet - babies and toddlers.

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  6. I've been thinking about this since you posted it. I agree that I don't like the hearts and blurring, but I think I don't like them more for aesthetic reasons. Plus, sometimes the stickers are done in a way that don't truly hide the child's face and I'm pretty sure I could identify him or her if I needed to. Instead, I've posted some (not a ton) partial body photos of my foster children. I can see how that would still be hiding them as if there was something to be ashamed of, but is that worse than hiding them completely? I want the world to know that foster children are real people and that I enjoy them like I enjoy my bio kids. I enjoy pictures of little hands and feet of all children, and like that I can share a tiny bit of the beauty of foster kids, too. For what it's worth, the pictures of my bio kids on my blog also don't show their faces (though on my personal Facebook account their faces are everywhere).

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    1. I agree that there are lots of details of kids and their daily adventures that are fun to take and share without having to show faces. I still take many photos of my daughter (who was once in foster care) that are of her feet or hands or in action with her face away from the camera. For me, before I became a foster parent when I'd read blog, the concealed photos help me to see that foster kids are real kids with real adventures, not just stories. Maybe it's because I'm such a visual person but I think there is a great value in the concealed face photos. As a foster and adoptive parent, I've very intentional about sharing our experiences as a way to recruit more foster parents—it was another foster parent's blog that changed the course of our lives! That said, I'm all for creative ways to conceal identity without blurring or using stickers. I admit, I've used both techniques and I'm up for the challenge of avoiding them.

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  7. This has been on my mind so much lately as my husband and I head into our final home visit before being licensed. I absolutely understand the need to protect the children in our care, and that will take importance over anything else in our lives, always. But. But I'm struggling with how much I'll feel "other" from the friends and family I have. They can share every part of their lives with one another, and the biggest part of our lives will have to be separated from that. It's something I'm definitely struggling with, to the point that I'm not even sure how/who to let know when we are licensed even though it's something we're so thrilled (scared, nervous, overjoyed) about.

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  8. I'm a foster mom, and I've not blurred or done a sticker. HOWEVER, the parents I know who do this have wonderful hearts and I don't see any bad intentions there. Would it be better to be left out? Can't imagine asking them to move to the side while the family gets a picture without them. Seems like there is controversy in everything we do as foster parents. It's a shame.

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  9. As a foster parent I have posted tons of pics of our kids playing, painting, etc. We do them from the back or at odd angles so it's part of the picture not blocking them out. For special days or Halloween I take 2 pictures. One all face forward smiling for their memory books and one all together from the back or a prop in front of face, like a birthday bag on their bday. They love being able to share their memories online like my other kids and understand why faces are private for them. My biggest problem has been my friends and family judging me for not posting as many pics of them as our other kids. Lol.

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Looking forward to reading what you have to say. ~Alisa