Should You Tell Teachers Your Child is Adopted?

Sending the kids back to school means a new classroom, new friends, new adventures, and a new teacher. For adoptive parents, building a relationship with a child’s teacher has the added element of whether or not to tell your child’s teacher he or she is adopted. There are various opinions about how best to handle the issue of adoption with school personnel, but the most important guideline is to remember that each child and each family is unique – there is no set “model” for how to handle the issue of adoption in the classroom.

For many, the question comes up before the child ever sets foot in a classroom. Many enrollment forms ask parents to identify whether or not a child is biological or adopted. Additionally, parents may consider the demographic of the student population when researching and choosing a school. Parents often consider ethnic background, staff diversity, and multicultural curriculum, in addition to evaluating the academic programs a school has to offer.

One of the main challenges parents face in evaluating the “adoption” question, is balancing the needs of the child academically, with the needs of the child socially. While children adopted as older children, out of the state foster care system, or internationally may have learning and developmental delays that influence their ability to perform in school, they also may have noticeable differences that make it challenging to fit in socially with their peers (language, behavior, etc.) A conference with your child’s teacher may help turn the educator into an ally in tackling these challenges. If you child does have a learning disability, there will need to be arrangements made to make sure his needs are being met, and disclosing the adoptive status might seem a natural part of problem-solving.

Combatting myths seems to be an ongoing issue for adoptive families – and the schoolhouse is no exception. Unfortunately, some teachers may have preconceived ideas and stereotypes regarding adoptive children just like other people in your child’s life. This is one of the reasons parents site for NOT telling teachers their child is adopted. Some teachers may assume that an adopted child is not as capable academically, will have behavior or social problems, or will expect MORE from a child adopted internationally (there is still a prevailing myth that children of Asian heritage do well in Math and Science and are exceptional students.) Some parents believe their children are more likely to be treated fairly if their adoptive status is not disclosed.

Like many parenting decisions, whether or not to tell your child’s teacher that he or she is adopted will be based on your own personal philosophy, the specific needs of your child, and a healthy helping of common sense. Some parents have become adoption advocates in the classroom – offering to do a presentation about adoption or a special unit on their child’s birth country (this can be especially welcome in the early elementary grades.) Each family, each school and each child’s situation will be unique and an adoptive parent may find the decision needs to be faced not once, but repeatedly throughout a child’s scholastic career.

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