Helping teachers understand adoption

In response to my last post, several of you asked what kinds of things I included in my annual teacher packet. I’m happy to share that, and have a couple of other ideas, too.

My approach was to keep it simple – both because as a former teacher I knew that my children’s teachers would have limited time to spend reading the packet, but also (truth be told) because I didn’t get my best ideas until the kids were in high school.

My packet had two things in it: a copy of a little book, now out of print but available used, called When Friends Ask About Adoption by Linda Bothun. Adoption language has changed since this book first came out in 1989, but at that time (the year our son arrived) it was considered a good resource for helping others understand the adoption experience. I annotated my copies with notes clarifying how my family addressed many of the topics – openness, adoption language, etc. There are many new books available not that will accomplish the same thing, but what was nice about this one was its size – short and sweet. In the absence of something, you might scout the net for fact sheets that provide similar information and include them instead. There’s one on the Child Welfare Information Gateway: Explaining Adoption to Your Children, Family and Friends. It could be a good foundation for a personalized information sheet. I'm sure there are many more like this out there, too.

I also included another little booklet, A Teacher’s Guide to Adoption, also out of print. However, there are other excellent resources out there. The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) has a terrific guide called S.A.F.E. at School, which can be purchased at their website. Based on five principles, Acceptance, Accuracy, Assignments, Assistance, and Advocacy, S.A.F.E. at School provides information that will help teachers create a respectful environment for our children.

If I had it to do over again, I would have added a few other things, too:

A list of adoption resources In the eighteen years since we adopted, the internet has exploded with information about adoption. Wading through it to find the good stuff is hard enough for those of us who are living adoption. Giving teachers links to reputable, ethical organizations and accurate information will help them find answers when they need them. So I would include a list of organizations, websites, books, etc. that my children’s teachers could keep handy, copy, and share.

A primer on family diversity In the U.S., we tend to think of diversity in terms of race. But there's diversity in every aspect of our lives, including family structure and history, adoption being just one of them. I would include something to heighten their awareness of this, including suggestions for alternative family history assignments. The Family Diversity Projects website offers articles, suggested books, and sample projects, and is a wonderful resource for all of us, not just educators.

One thing we DON'T want to do is give teachers the impression that individual children should be singled out for alternative assignments. New kinds of assignments that teach awareness and respect for diversity while teaching the lesson should be the goal.

By the way, Susan posted a wonderful account of her recent experience with the family tree at her husband’s family reunion this summer, be sure to read it!

The same explosion that has given us the current wealth of information about adoption on the internet has also given families many more ideas for addressing adoption at school. Look for an Open Mike later in the week to see what ideas you may have. The more we share, the more our children benefit!


Susan said…
Margie, thanks so much for the link. Very thoughtful post on adoption & education...
Lavender Luz said…
Thanks for the resources. My eldest just started KG, and I have already offered to come talk to the class. Thanks for the links and advice.

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