Social Media and Child Welfare: Policy, Training, and the Risks and Benefits From the Administrator’s Perspective

Tonia C. Stott, Ann MacEachron, Nora Gustavsson


The field of public child welfare faces special challenges as it interweaves the use of social media into practice. Social media can assist agencies in meeting demands of practice such as communication, preservation of important family connections, identification of kin, and service coordination with caretakers and community partners. It also presents risks with respect to privacy, confidentiality, and safety. To look at the role of social media in child welfare practice, we began by examining the literature on social media use and how agencies are responding to the risks and benefits of this technology. We then report the findings from an exploratory national survey of training administrators (n=14) that suggests states vary in both policy development and training with respect to social media in child welfare work. We further report on state training administrators’ views of the perceived risks vs. benefits of the use of social media in various case management tasks and in enhancing the well-being of youth in out-of-home care. Agencies would reduce their liability risks and at the same time benefit their staff and clients by developing policies that offer guidelines to protect agency and staff privacy and safety, as well as client privacy and safety. Agencies may also promote the well-being of youth in out-of-home care by providing adequate information to staff and care-givers regarding the safe use of social media to create and maintain appropriate connections. 


Foster care; social media; technology; case management

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Copyright (c) 2017 Tonia C. Stott, Ann MacEachron, Nora Gustavsson


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