Adoption and Education: What schools and teachers don’t understand

Written by on 3 February, 2015 in Adoption, Education with 0 Comments

Summer set-up in my one time classroom.

Some of the most traumatized children sitting inside classrooms are those children who have experienced the entire loss of their God given family, for whatever reason. Those children are either currently in the foster care system, an orphanage, or have been transferred to the care of an adoptive family.

These children are at-risk and do not respond to normal, or in some cases, reasonable educational expectations. The children are inherently disorganized, distracted, and distraught. For a teacher or school counselor to suggest that the new caregiver implement medication and school journals to fix a serious problem would be funny if they weren’t serious. These are coping mechanisms that the child has put into place to deal with their chaotic lives. It would be easier to change the orbit of the Earth than to change a child’s coping skills.

My son, Alex, is the perfect example of educational disorganization. Every semester, we would get a new folder for each of his classes. On the cover was the name of the class in very large letters. When he opened the folder one side of the folder was for new assignments and those in progress. The other side of the folder was for those assignments he was to submit for grading. I even labeled the sides in large typed print so he could easily read it. Kohla who educational organization came easy suggested folders as he watched me pulled over thirty independent papers out of Alex’s backpack. Then Kohla watched in amazement as I pulled out the folders. Alex would help me sort the papers into piles that we could then place inside his folders. Alex could not make the decision himself as to which folder or which side of the folder the paper belonged. As a teacher, I found it difficult to understand why it was so challenging. As his mother, I understood there was more going on.  After a couple of years, Alex was transferred from public school to a small private school where he graduated high school and went onto community college. He needed to be in a class with a handful of other children; definitely not over thirty. It’s not that he could not perform the work, but the organization was so extremely daunting for him that it stunted the rest of the educational process. A few of his teachers were excellent, but mostly I heard. “He needs to learn organization skills. You can’t help him forever.” The boy could barely speak English. His world was a mess; why not his backpack?

The worst teachers failed him for late work. Poor teachers only dropped his grades for submitting work late even though he had it completed. The best teachers understood there was a problem that ran deep and would allow me to sit down with him over a weekend to get things straightened out. Failing him and dropping his grades didn’t encourage better organization, it only encouraged his bad feelings about himself.

Many adopted and foster children have bad feelings about themselves because they believe that their relinquishment was somehow their fault; much like the children of divorce. However the feelings go much deeper because unlike the children of divorce who still have some family intact, these children lose both parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, culture, and some lose their country. Even white children adopted by white people lose their culture. The losses these children endure are catastrophic. Healthier homes allow the children to talk about those feelings and may even keep in contact with genetic family members. Unfortunately, insecure parents don’t want to hear it and even minimize the God given family while the adults get lost in their own insecurities.

Depending upon the economy, adoption brings between twelve and sixteen billion dollars into the American economy each year. White infants can sell for anywhere from forty thousand and up before they leave the hospital. Wording and advertising is very important to the adoption industry, because they are in the business to encourage infertile couples to fulfill their dreams through purchasing a child they can call their own. Adoption is unregulated by the United States government. Infants suffer similar trauma to their older adopted peers, and it often becomes extremely apparent by the middle school years when they realize that they have nothing in common with those around them. The advertising has been so eloquently put that I’ve heard grown individuals say, “I wish I’d been adopted.” As though these kids have found the goose that’s laid the golden egg. These broken and severely traumatized children are often referred to as “lucky,” because adoptive families tend to have more financial resources than birth families.

While the United States is complacent about children in care, other countries engaged in adoption are now stepping up and doing their own research. The United Kingdom has done some educational research regarding adopted members of society. Adopted Children and Education printed in Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry also notes the difficulties children have in managing friendships, racism, and the number of questions they receive during a school day regarding their “real” families. These things all add to an already stressed out child that is managing the best they can under difficult circumstances. In some cases, they act out at home. In other cases, they are done when they get home; they chill, and get ready for the next uncomfortable, unmanageable, and confusing day of education.

In most cases, the new parents have been sold a bill of goods by an extremely powerful politically lobbying industry geared to their sensibilities. They have no idea what they’ve bought into. In most cases, the adoptive parents bought onto extending their families by television commercials that show a high school valedictorian thanking his proud adoptive parents. A few may have had visions of grandeur like adding a trophy to an already full shelf. What they’ve found is disheartening work that never ends, an angry child they can’t fix and neither can the professionals, and an inflexible educational system that discounts them and their parenting skills. The word “real” becomes a four letter word they spend more time fretting about than the help their child desperately needs. At times, adoptive families feel alone and like school is the enemy.

It’s important that the two sides come together. Working with the most broken children in the adoption community is not any different than working with other special needs groups. What’s important is that children are identified and given reasonable expectations, so they can go on to become productive members of our society.

Teacher’s God bless you. Your job is paramount and anyone who believes they can do it better should get a license and give it a whirl.

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