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Creating A Positive Learning Environment For Foster And Adoptive Children In The Classroom

Nine years ago I found myself in a difficult situation when it came to completing a homework assignment with a foster child who was living in my home. The homework assignment was to fill in a family tree. Sounds easy, right? Well, in this case, there were a variety of reasons that prevented us from filling in that tree. The main reason was due to the lack of information we had on the biological family. The assignment was returned incomplete with an explanation and request for modifying it so we could complete it. After a lengthy discussion with the teacher, the requested modifications were made and the assignment was completed. However, the public humiliation could not be erased, and the positive learning environment for the foster child had been compromised.The recollection of this experience came to me as I was searching through my daughter’s homework folder for the first time. I began wondering how we would handle this assignment with her first grade teacher. My daughter was adopted at birth; and has known from an early age as to how we became a family. For her to complete a family tree assignment, she would need a tree with branches AND roots. A family tree that diagrams the birth and adoptive families she has come to know and love. For other children like my foster child and those who do not have much information about their biological families, it may be a tree with one branch and some leaves. The assignment should be modified in a way that gives them an opportunity to successfully complete it without public humiliation from class mates and the receipt of an incomplete grade.My wondering led me to researching and compiling a list of useful tips and resources parents can share with teachers and school staff to create a positive learning environment for foster and adoptive children in the classroom when it comes to similar assignments.Talk to the teacher about your foster care or adopted child before the new school year starts. Keep in mind that this is private information, and sharing may be difficult for you. The discussion can be as simple as revealing nothing more than the child is in a foster care placement, or has been adopted by you. Share what ever you think will create a positive learning environment for the child.Provide a list of organizations that focus on foster care and adoption. The following are organizations that I have found to be helpful in educating family, friends, and teacher about the unique way we became a family.The Center for Adoption Support and Education, Inc. (C.A.S.E.) is a private, non-profit adoptive family support center that offers workshops on how to address the sensitivity that surrounds families who were created through the unique process of foster care and adoption.National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) supports foster care children and families across the United States through a network of affiliates, as well as providing educational resources that are available on their website at Families Magazine provides several widely used guides and resources in their monthly newsstand and online issues for adoptive families and teachers that can easily be modified for use by foster care families.Donate books about foster care and adoption to the classroom or school library. Offer to read a book from that collection to your child’s class as a way to help the teacher introduce foster care and adoption. In addition to traditional bookstores, foster care and adoption books can be purchased through Tapestry Books, an online bookstore specializing in foster care and adoption titles at http://www.tapestrybooks.comWork with the school principle or counselor to coordinate an in-service training session that focuses on foster care and adoption for teachers and other staff members. According to Celebrate Adoption, a non-profit education organization, 1 out of 63 children in the United States are adopted. Educating others about foster care and adoption increases the acceptance of these children in our classrooms and awareness of the sensitivity surrounding their family history as it relates to the school curriculum.By following the tips and using the resources provided in this article, you will not only be able to create a positive learning environment for the foster or adopted child placed in your care, but also for those who will enter a classroom in the future.Reference: The Institute for Adoption Information, Inc. (formerly known as Celebrate Adoption, Inc.) (1999) An Educator’s Guide to Adoption, Bennington, Vermont.