Monday, 24 October 2011

Educational experiences of adopted children

The educational experiences of adopted children can massively depend on the response of the school. While 'designated teachers' have been installed in most schools, to meet the needs of looked after children, when they then leave care and become adopted these children can sometimes fall through the gap.

Kim and Paolo adopted their two children, Bryony and Jasmine, when they were three and five. Their children's school has been mostly outstanding, but this hasn't happened without their hard work. A strong and trusting relationship between them and the teachers is essential, explains Kim.

"The school really went out their way to ensure the girls settled in when they first came to live with us. They gave them a real sense of belonging, and I believe the support our children received in the classroom helped them settle in at home too. The school have also been really good in supporting Bryony, who has been granted a Special Needs Certificate. They teachers have displayed great awareness of the self esteem issues that can come with learning difficulties, and worked well with Bryony to overcome the blocks.

"Where I think more could be done is extending the support out of the classroom, and into the playground. The biggest issue for children is being accepted by their peers, and feeling like they fit in. Jasmine spent a lot of time crying in the playground when she was younger, because nobody wanted to play with her, and it is still an issue with Bryony. They were moved around so much before they came to us that it's not surprising that they have a greater fear of rejection than other children. And this might cause them to lash out sometimes. Not having a central place of belonging in those early years can effect children's relationships with others later on in life. Teachers need to understand this. Schools need to find a more structured way to deal with the emotional fall out from children who have been separated from birth families, and get better at spotting the behaviour that stems from early years trauma.

"For Jasmine, although feelings of rejection still remain, it is an echo of what it was before. The school have been very good at helping her manage her anger, through practical exercises like breathing techniques and visualisation. We also used a book that the teachers would write in during the day, and I would write in at night. We praised Jasmine when her behaviour was good, but noted it when it was bad. This worked really well as it showed Jasmine that there was a communication between home and school. We were a team working together to try and support her.

"I think it's really important that adoptive parents create a relationship of trust with their children’s school. Sometimes the relationship a parent has with their children's school can be affected by the parent's own schooling experiences. But it's important not to project your own experiences on to the relationship. Inform the school about your child, and work with them to find solutions. And acknowledge them when they've done something well. A bit of thanks can go a million miles."

For more information and stories about education in relation to adoption and fostering, please visit BAAF's online bookstore.

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