your family tree." "Research your ancestry in a term paper."
"Bring a baby picture to post on the bulletin board."
Seemingly innocent, common school assignments turn into land mines
for adopted and foster children. Just as children are coming to
understand the full implications of adoption, a classroom project
can increases vulnerability and trigger unresolved feelings.
foster children, feelings of not belonging can be triggered.
lacking family information, children may feel that they are
the missing piece that is out of place.
adoptions, in which birth family information is accessible does
not remove the inherent loss issues that are central to all
comparisons with peers can lead to feeling "all wrong."
public classroom setting - reading aloud a child's paper or
posting baby photographs on the bulletin board - can heighten
feelings of being different from others.
trans-racially adopted children, who are required to write a paper
about genealogy, race presents further complexities. While some
children are happy to explore their racial or ethnic heritage, others
are ambivalent, resisting being pegged as being and looking different.
The child may feel caught between disloyal to the adoptive family
and feeling guilt for denying the essence of "who I am."
Together, teachers and parents can revamp curriculum to be inclusive
of all children. This effort doesn't mean that the teacher must
create a special curriculum to accommodate adopted or foster children,
but rather that lessons be enlarged to accommodate a wide variety
of family conditions.
designing adoption-sensitive assignments, educational professionals
can start by considering a child's developmental age in relationship
to their understanding of adoption, divorce or other life situations.
Include books, software and additional resources that enlarge the
definition of "Family" and that match the child's understanding
of their unique family situation. Provide assignments about adoption
that non-adopted children as well as adopted children could choose
years: Ages 3-5:
Preschoolers are concrete thinkers and use play to work things out.
Two themes appear frequently: good vs. bad and big vs. little. Logical
thinking is not part of their verbal, creative play. Rather they
are masters of magical and egocentric thinking. Preschoolers are
convinced that they are the hub around which everything revolves.
concrete and simple. Use props, such as dolls, simple drawings,
relaxed and factual. Your tone of voice is more important than
worry if they reject the explanation, for now, especially about
being born to someone else.
that there will be many chances to talk about adoption.
in mind that children usually feel good about being adopted
at this age but will still have confusions.
Years: Ages 6-10
Six, seven, and eight-year-olds take a leap at the same time they
are facing new challenges outside of the family. They spend a lot
of energy gaining motor skills, acquiring new academic knowledge
in school, and engaging socially with peers, especially of the same
sex. Nine and Ten year olds are even more competent and independent;
they experience the ordinary conflicts with teachers over TV privileges,
chores, clothes, bedtimes, language, movies, etc.
Tips for Teachers:
adopted children's privacy in public.
and help kids with adoption-related teasing as with all teasing.
kids deflect intrusive questions if they do not want to talk
proactive. Mention adoption and adoptive families regularly.
Some children may volunteer to share about adoption and their
story. Be casually encouraging.
the idea that there are many kinds of families, including adoptive
Tips for Parents:
advantage of your child's growing maturity to fill in details
of her story.
your child distinguish between what is family information and
what is appropriate to share in school.
newly arrived children, help them rehearse simple answers to
your child's comfort level with classroom presentations or celebrations.
Offer, but don't insist.
up the subject casually but often.
your child connect with other adopted kids and families.
Center for Adoption Support and Education, Inc.
C.A.S.E. was created in May 1998 to
provide post-adoption counseling and educational services
to families, educators, child welfare staff, and mental
health providers in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington,
D.C. In addition, C.A.S.E. is a national resource for families
and professionals through its training, publications, and
For Adoption Information
Institute for Adoption Information, Inc., is a nonprofit
organization of adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents,
adoption professionals and others who have united to enhance
the understanding of adoption and to advocate for balanced,
accurate coverage of adoption in news and entertainment
Families Adopting in Response
exists for adoptive families. Through its all-volunteer
organization FAIR offers information, education, support
and fellowship to adoptive and preadoptive families. Our
membership includes families who have adopted children through
public and private agencies, from the US as well as from
many other countries. FAIR focuses on the children who need
a permanent, loving family and the parents who have opened
their hearts and homes to those children, infants through
of the Shadows
the earliest pictures Jill Lampman has of her older daughter,
Elena's hair is short and choppy. There are dark circles
under her eyes. When Elena's kindergarten teacher sent home
her first assignment to bring in a baby photo for
the bulletin board Jill knew she had to tell the
teacher her child's story. Elena had spent her first three
years in a Romanian orphanage. "The first pictures
I have of her," Jill says, "are not something
I would want to share."