Helping teachers understand adoption

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Margie Perscheid, originally published at Third Mom

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.

Margie Perscheid is the adoptive mother of two Korean teens. She is a co-founder of Korean Focus, an organization for families with children from Korea with chapters across the country. Margie is on the Board of Directors of the Korean American Coalition DC Chapter, a former board member of KAAN, the Korean YMCA of Greater Washington (now KAYA), and ASIA (Adoption Service Information Agency). Margie writes about her intercountry adoption experiences at Third Mom. She, her husband Ralf, and their two children live in Alexandria, Virginia.

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