Ask the Expert: Adoption and the school


Jennifer Hillman
Focus on Adoption magazine

Q: My six-year-old daughter came home from school very upset after a friend had told her that I was a “fake” mom. How can I help her face such difficult comments?

Jennifer Hillman, AFABC regional coordinator, responds:

A: First, have a discussion with your daughter regarding the remark that has been made. Allow her to express her feelings.

Review her story and use your books on adoption to reinforce how there are many different kinds of families. Use positive adoption language with your child and give her the tools and language to use it with her peers. (See for examples).

Second, talk to your child’s teacher. Discuss the issue and share information on respectful adoption language, update them with on what adoption looks like today, and offer to come in and do a presentation to the classroom on families and the different ways they are formed.

If you are not comfortable doing the presentation, or your daughter says that she doesn’t want you to, ask another adoptive parent or contact the AFABC office for assistance.

In my school presentations, I explain that all of us arrived in the world by birth. This leads to a discussion about all kinds of families: big, small, blended, foster, adoptive, multiracial, single parent, etc. I don’t make adoptive families the entire focus of my talk. I tell my family storey and use our family album to illustrate how our family came together.

The use of books is very important. I always start off with the book called Families are Different by Nina Pellegrini. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born is also always a favourite.

Then there is time for questions and comments from the children. I also take an activity for the children - a sheet that has space for them to draw their family and why they are special. That way every child has a chance to share with me.

What I have found over the years is that children have the capacity to understand that we all belong to families. Once they do this they can become allies with one another.

The best way to help your child is, of course, to talk to his or her teacher before he or she starts school or at the beginning of each new school year. Hopefully, that might at least reduce hurtful comments.

Other books that are great for presentations are: A Forever Family, Susan & Gordon Adopt a Baby, An Adoption Tale, Over the Moon, Happy Adoption Day. Visit for more suggestions.