As many families are gearing up for school, the impact of adoption in the classroom is forefront in our minds. If a teacher does not understand how adoption can impact your child, things can get difficult quickly. One way that adoptive parents can advocate for their children is by writing a simple note to the teacher. Below is a sample letter that you can alter to fit your family. I often speak to groups of teachers and parents about adoption, development and adoption, adoptive families, and effective communication between teachers, parents, and administrators. Feel free to contact me regarding speaking to your group.
I never thought I would be the irritating, over-involved parent, but my child needs me to ensure that you understand adoption and how it impacts him. As his teacher, you are amazingly impactful on his development, not just intellectually, but his psychosocial development as well. Because my child was not with me in his earliest days he has concerns about his value and experiences feelings of rejection. Those may be sensitive subjects for him. I am his mother, but he also has an African mother. We respect that relationship. We both grieve that he was unable to stay with her there. I am so grateful that I get to raise him every day, but my heart breaks that he has experienced so much loss, pain, and transition in his young life. His relationships in Africa, including biological relatives and other caregivers, are important to him and us. We use the term African Mama not birth mother or biological mother. A traditional family tree assignment will not work for my child. He would need several trees. Assignments that include asking for baby photos or other childhood photos may be very painful for him as we do not have those photos. Those simple genetics activities that are popular in elementary school may be something he cannot complete and it may be upsetting to him. It may take some creativity to come up with different assignments for the class, but I would be happy to help. It is part of my responsibility as my child’s adoption advocate. My child does not look like me, our genetics are not the same, but I am raising him. He may behave in ways you would not expect based on his appearance. I am teaching him that people in America may assume negative things based solely on appearance, but I hope the people he interacts with regularly will judge him by the content of his character and yet remember that he has experienced more pain in his short life than his peers, and those experiences can occasionally be distracting. English was not the first language to which my child was exposed. There are still words and cultural references that he does not understand. I know my child can be obstinate at times – that skill likely helped him survive in an orphanage – but sometimes he truly may not understand. Can you be understanding that obstinance is a skill he developed and he is still learning it no longer benefits him and keeps him safe. Because he has had so many influences, identity is not a simple question for my child. I have given him an English name that you can pronounce and spell. I believe it will help him navigate life in America. There may be days or even years when he prefers to identify himself with his African name. We love that name, currently his middle name, as well. He is welcome to use that name and ask others to call him by his African name rather than his American name. I know adoption and transracial families can be difficult to explain to children sometimes. My agency is happy to send someone to talk about adoption to the children or staff, even provide in service training or education. I am happy to help make those contacts for you or bring in adoption books to read to the class if you think it would help. My agency teaches that adoptive parenting is advanced parenting. Some days it feels like that, but mostly it simply pulls on my heart to give more because of what he has missed. He may be more complicated than some of your other students. I am here to help you teach him and integrate him into your classroom. If his reactions confuse you or seem irrational, hopefully I can “translate” for you. Thank you for giving yourself and teaching these children every day. You play such a major role in their lives. I hope I can be a resource to you. Please never hesitate to reach out if there is a way I can help or a question I can answer for you. This blog was originally published at MLJ Adoptions. It is republished here with permission and updates.