Curtis was not in control. In fact, he had no control with just about everything in his life. After all, Curtis was in foster care.
Thirteen year old Curtis was placed into foster care after suffering neglect from a mother who was addicted to and sold illegal drugs. The teenager had been separated from his other two siblings, a younger brother and sister, as there were no foster homes in the area able to take in three children at that time. The foster teen’s father had been in and out of the family’s life, just as he had been in and out of jail. When Curtis arrived in his new foster home, he was confused, he was lonely, and he was scared. Curtis had been taken from everything he knew. He had been taken from his mother, his father, his brother, and his sister. He had been taken from his bedroom, his toys, his baseball card collection, his pet dog, his house, his home. The teen had been taken from his grandparents, his aunts, his uncles, his cousins, his neighbors, his friends, his teachers, and his classmates. Indeed, Curtis had been taken from everything that was familiar to him, everything he knew, and everything he loved.
Against his wishes, Curtis had been thrust into a strange home, with strange people and strange rules. The teenager had no control over the situation, had no say in where he was going to live, and had no power in whenever he might one day return home to his mother and to his family. Yet, Curtis did have control over one thing, his online life. The foster teen was able to create an online identity, one that he could control and one that he could escape into. During the day, Curtis was reminded that he was a foster child every possible moment. Whether it was at his new school, with his new teachers and fellow students, to living with foster parents and his foster brother, Curtis was unable to escape his unwanted status of being in a foster home and a child of foster care. In the evenings, though, Curtis would escape and find refuge behind his computer from his fears and anxieties of being a foster child. Through social networking, playing online games, and texting his friends, Curtis felt like he was in charge of his own actions. This was the only thing the foster teen had control of, and he was not about to let it go.
For all the benefits that online technology and social networking provide for a foster child, the dangers and horrors that are prevalent online for foster children are almost overwhelming. Indeed, foster children are especially susceptible to many of these dangers, for a variety of reasons. As more foster children turn to online technology and social networking for entertainment, communication, and escape, the number of foster children that are being placed in harm’s way via the internet is increasing. Unfortunately, this is one area that many foster parents, and child welfare workers for that matter, do not recognize or are unfamiliar with. Thus, it is vital that those who work with foster children be aware of these dangers if they hope to be better equipped to protect children in need from today’s online world.
For much more, get a copy of Keeping Foster Children Safe Online: Positive Strategies to Prevent Cyberbullying, Inappropriate Content, and Other Digital Dangers, by Dr. John DeGarmo