So How Much Private Information Should You Share?

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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Whether you're an adoptive, foster, or special needs family, there's a tricky balance between inviting people into your story and keeping private information, private. The best place to begin? Establish a few key guidelines!

Over the past 12 years, we have learned several important lessons when it comes to our family’s personal information. We’ve learned who we can invite into our story and who needs to be kept at arms length.

When we first adopted, we received some invaluable advice. We were showing our new daughter off, telling a little about the adoption journey, and trying to answer some rather blunt questions about our daughter’s birth mom. That’s when Dawn pulled us aside. Dawn was a member of the church we were serving with at the time, and, to this day, one of the sweetest, most genuine human beings we have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

“Your daughter’s story is her story, and yours, no one else’s,” Dawn said humbly. “Be careful who you share her information with. You never want someone using your information against you or having someone repeat sensitive details back to your child when she is older!” She was right. We are eternally grateful for those words of advice. They shaped the future for us and still do to this day.

It’s tricky. Your family is obviously unique (whether it’s built through adoption or the old-fashioned way). People will always be curious. But who do share personal information with and how?

The way I like to picture it is similar to how you would receive information about a novel. With every great novel you really get the details (plot, character description, storyline, etc.) three ways- the back cover of the book, the cliff notes, a complete chapter, and reading the full-length book.

Determining your audience.

  1. The “back-cover” crowd. These people are your passers-by. They’re the waitress at your favorite restaurant. They’re the nosey lady standing behind you in the grocery store check-out line staring at your family. They’re the folks who (bless their hearts) ask wonderful questions like “Are they real brothers and sisters?” They do not deserve an ounce of information but because you’re courteous you give a nugget or two here or there. This crowd gets the general synopsis- “You adopted, your child has a special need, your family is different,” but that’s it. They receive enough to be intrigued but not enough to know specific details about you or your children. They can judge or assume all they want, even ask specific questions, but you should never budge on your position with this crowd.
  2. The “cliff notes” crowd. This group receives more than the back-cover crowd, but not enough to formulate an entire chapter on your life. They know the details beyond general knowledge, and could explain your story to someone else if need be. They only know some of the intimate details of your children’s story though. They are the friend from work, or the person in your church who takes a genuine interest in your family, provided they can be trusted. This group receives enough of the story to go beyond curiosity but not enough to formulate a complete picture of your family. They would be further down the list of folks you would call in a crisis or when you needed to have coffee and vent.
  3. The “complete chapter” crowd. This crowd knows complete stories, but not the entire book. In other words, they know your child has behavior issues, that they were drug and alcohol exposed at birth, or even that they’ve been in residential treatment. But they do not know what day-to-day life with this child is like, the contents of their IEP meetings, or even what the nitty-gritty details of your battles with him or her are like. With this group, you’re beyond cliff notes and really just a small step away from sharing the full-length book. They have just about earned your trust to share the complete story
  4. The “full-length book” crowd. These people are your inner-sanctum, your support system, or your closest friends. These are the folks who will walk through hell with you if you needed them to. They are steel traps, never sharing a drop of your information with anyone. They will sit and listen to you as you pour your heart out and not say word unless asked. They do not give unsolicited advice and they never judge. This is the crowd who knows ever intimate detail of your life and your children’s. This group should always be kept very small.

Proceed with caution.

The greatest rule of thumb to live by is caution. Be cautious with your children’s (and your family’s) information. As Dawn shared years ago, you never want their story to be used against them or regurgitated to them in a way that hurts or embarrasses them. This could never be more true than when you adopt, or even in foster care. With all the stigmas surrounding adoption and foster care, it’s wise to keep your support system and circle of trust small and tight.

Are you an adoptive family or a family with a unique story? How do you navigate sharing information with others?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.