One mom's method


Susan Waugh
Focus on Adoption magazine

Every September, I speak to my daughters’ teachers about adoption. I always bring a copy of AFABC’s “Positive Adoption Language” with me, and I set privacy boundaries for the teachers around publicly discussing our daughters’ circumstances. This visit also gives me an opportunity to find out about any family-related assignments that might impact the girls. I’m careful to point out to teachers that the adoption language sheet will help them when discussing family circumstances with same-sex families, single-parent families, and separated, divorced or blended families.

Last year, in the spring, my younger daughter’s teacher gave me a heads-up about an upcoming family tree assignment. He explained that we could alter the assignment to make sure it was inclusive of our family makeup.

Within the next few days, I gave him a couple of articles about school assignments and adoption issues. To my delight, he took the advice in the articles to heart, and the assignment was changed for the entire class. He explained that reading the articles made him realize that a family tree can be problematic for many children, not just for adoptees, and that altering the assignment would make it more inclusive for all kinds of families. He even ordered some of the adoption books referenced in the articles for the school library.

Even a brief conversation about adoption can have positive effects:

  • It opens the door to the topic, and lets teachers know it’s okay to talk to you about adoption.
  • It raises their awareness about invasive questions your children may be facing from their peers, or even from their teachers, and the need to respect even a very young child’s privacy.
  • It models a respectful way, and non-judgemental terms for them to use with all kinds of families, when discussing family structure.
  • Finally, it makes teachers sensitive to the fact that some assignments may be problematic for children in non-traditional families, and that they themselves need to think creatively when it comes to being inclusive.

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