[Book Review] Adoption and the Schools: A Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers

Though many schools support the ideas of diverse families and multiculturalism, adoption is rarely mentioned as one of the differences to be considered or part of a school curriculum. This book seeks to change that.

Adoption and the Schools cover

FAIR; 2001

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Adoption and the Schools was created by two adoptive mothers who wanted every classroom to acknowledge adoption in ways that support children. Written for parents and teachers of kids from preschool through high school, it is an updated and, in our opinion, greatly improved version of the first two volumes produced by FAIR on this topic. More comprehensive and more attractive, this volume makes a substantial contribution to the bank of practical knowledge within the adoption community. According to the authors, their book “is not an answer book but a guide to help parents explore the impact of adoption on education and the educational process by educating educators about adoption.” A wealth of information sheds light on the special school concerns of a large cross section of adoptive parents and is thoughtfully presented. Particularly engaging are the many expressive and delightful drawings and poems used to illustrate the material, products of young artists and poets who are growing up adopted.

Equally provocative is a recurring section called “Lessons for the Heart,” which describes experiences from the perspective of the adopted child. Once we know how to call adoption challenges by their right names, we will be able to think about them in expanded ways.

Though many schools are interested in and support the ideas of diverse families and multiculturalism, adoption is rarely mentioned as one of the differences to be considered or part of a school curriculum. This book will increase understanding among teachers about how the complex experience of adoption impacts students of all ages. It is not necessarily the kind of volume you sit down and read through in one sitting. There is so much important information gathered in this manual that we see parents and teachers using it as a reference guide, particularly when planning lessons or thinking about specific situations that have come up in the classroom or on the playground. Like any great reference, Adoption and the Schools is full of information, suggestions, and humor, but its message—that a positive approach to adoption in the schools can make education a more meaningful experience—is what makes this guide such a satisfying read.

Topics covered include developmental perspectives, parent-teacher communication, problem assignments, presentations for schools and classrooms, transcultural considerations, special educational challenges, the older child at school, and recommended resources. Among the powerful articles included, don’t miss: “Birth Parent Transformation,” by Brenda Romanchik; “Adopt-a Confusion,” by Pat Johnston; “Understanding Adoption,” by Lansing Wood; “The Storm of Adolescence,” by Joyce Maguire Pavao; “An Open Letter,” by Nancy Ng; “How I Explained Adoption to the First Grade,” by Amy Klatzkin; “Multicultural Education,” by Beth Hall and Gail Steinberg; “International Adoption in the Classroom,” by Susan Soon-Keum Cox; “Of Oreos and Cameos,” by Sue Badeau; and “How to Get Special Educational Services,” by Carol Beaumont.

Lansing Wood and Nancy Ng, authors of Adoption and the Schools, are veteran adoptive parents who have held leadership roles with FAIR (Families Adopting in Response), an adoption support organization in California, for 20 years. Both hold master’s degrees and serve as master trainers for Kinship Center’s Adoption Clinical Training program. Adoption and the Schools is available from FAIR at www.fairfamilies.org or P.O. Box 51436, Palo Alto, CA 94303. Consider purchasing copies for your children’s schools.

—Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall, co-directors of PACT: An Adoption Alliance.

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