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To Tell or Not to Tell (The School, That is) That is the Question...

By Karen Ledbetter

I asked for feedback about whether or not to tell the school, daycare, or preschool of your child’s adopted status. I received several interesting and thought-provoking responses:

"Telling people that our children were adopted was always something that came very naturally. Of course we didn't go into long explanations for every stranger in the supermarket who made a comment about the babies, but to those people with whom we were likely to have an ongoing relationship, it was something that we never made any secret of. It was how our family was formed, and something that made us all very happy. Most people who knew us knew that the kids were adopted anyway.

"When it came time to fill out the first form when signing our daughter up for preschool, the question was right there in black and white. Was this child adopted, and if so, did the child know he or she was adopted? It really didn't occur to me to not answer the question honestly. Being adopted is part of my children's life experience, and I didn't see any reason to withhold the information. I figured that the school must have a reason for asking, although I can't remember any situation ever coming up - with either child - where it would have made any difference if the teachers knew or not. I certainly don't feel that either my son or daughter, who attended the same preschool, were ever treated in a negative way because they were adopted.

"I don't remember the question being on the applications for the private elementary school that they now attend, but I know I eventually mentioned it to the kindergarten teacher (they both had the same teacher) possibly at the first parent-teacher conference. Again, there were no negative effects, no labeling as possible problem children, etc. When each child was in first grade, and had a week of being the class VIP (again, they had the same teacher) I made it a point to go in and visit the class and read an adoption story to the children, who were very interested. Some of them already knew that my children were adopted. The teacher also made it a very positive experience.

"I guess the decision about whether or not to tell the school is a very personal one that each family must come to after careful thought. I don't think there is any right or wrong answer. What's right for one family isn't necessarily right for another, and with these types of situations there are usually a number of different factors to consider before making this decision." Miriam, NY

"My husband didn't feel one way or the other about it, but I know he's a private person who likes to keep his business just that - in the family. While I'm quite open about adoption, in the past few years I've become open only with those I know share my interests. I also didn't want My son to be known as ‘the adopted kid,’ nor did I want any problems that might arise to immediately be labeled ‘adoption issues’. I came to this conclusion after witnessing this type of thing happen to friends with adopted kids.

"I only told the school after He had been there for 9 months, when we went to adopt Our daughter - and I only told them then because I had to explain things. I now regret that decision. Sure, I had to tell that Our daughter is adopted, but once his adoption became known, the questions started. Did I meet his ‘real mom’? (ARGH!!!!!) What was wrong with her that she had babies and then gave them up? Is He like his ‘real mom?’ and so on and so forth.

"Then, when he started to act up and out from boredom, and from problems in having a new sister, it was immediately labeled an adoption issue. Boredom was never considered, not even when I brought it up - no, the ‘expert’ teacher concluded that he knew he was adopted and was angry about it. Sibling rivalry? Nah....the fact that My son had undiagnosed pneumonia (we thought it was asthma) wasn't considered, either. Nope, everything was ‘adoption’. One teacher went so far as to suggest that My son's ‘real mother’ did drugs and/or alcohol, and therefore, My son had FAS – right before she admitted she knew nothing about FAS!

"When I enrolled him in his new school, one of the questions on the application is ‘If your child is adopted, does he know?’ I left that blank. I don't think it's their business. In time, perhaps I'll tell them...but most likely, I won't. If he chooses to tell, and I'm asked, I will not lie, of course. I'll even offer to come in and talk about it to the kids, just to see how progressive and open minded they are. But volunteer the information? Absolutely not." Barbara, NJ

"My husband and I have decided not to share our daughter's adoption information with the school, at least for now. We feel that her conception, birth, and how she joined our family are private matters (not secret) that have absolutely nothing to do with how she'll perform academically, so the school really doesn't need to know this right now. We feel that her teacher and classmates need to get to know her for the unique little person that she is, without any stereotypical misconceptions regarding her birth history. Plus, we feel that it's HER story to share, not ours. If she chooses to share this info with her teacher or some of her classmates, that's okay. She knows it's okay for her to tell others she's adopted, but so far I've only heard her mention it twice--once to my mom and dad, and again to the nurse at her doctor's office. She also has been told that once she shares this info with someone, it cannot be ‘taken back.’

"By not sharing this info right now, we don’t feel that we’re being dishonest or secretive. We're just not sharing info that we feel is private. We realize that at some point in the future we may have to share this info with a teacher and will take that opportunity to educate others about adoption; but for now, it's our private family business. I also realize that if a child is a different race or nationality from his/her parents, or if a child was adopted at an older age, these issues are entirely different. Also, I feel that there are no right or wrong answers here. Each family has to do what they feel is best for them and their child(ren)." Karen, NC

"When My daughter entered pre-school the school application had this entire section on whether your child was adopted or not. When were they adopted? Do they know they are adopted? Do they have a sibling that was also adopted? When did they find out they were adopted?

"My mind was truly boggled the first time I read this, which was over 2 years ago. Why would they want to know? What difference could it possibly make? I have read numerous books and magazines on the issue. Some said tell, others said do not tell.

"My husband and I made a joint decision not to tell. Quite simply, our children’s adoptions are not secrets, but (the information) is private. We crossed out the section on the application. We did not want our child to stand out for any reason in these people’s minds, whether it be positive or negative to them.

"The one question that stood out the most to us was the one that said ‘Do they know they are adopted?’. For the life of me, I can’t understand that one! I would tell the school that they (my children) were adopted and not tell my own kid? It makes you kinda wonder what is going on in their minds to ask such a question in the first place!

"Our hope has always been that if either child feels like sharing their adoption stories as they hear them and can tell them, that it would be a wonderful thing! So far so good, as our daughter has shared some of her adoption regarding her b/mom and b/father with others!

"Again, there is nothing that we are more proud of than having these two beautiful children. And truly I will talk to anyone about adoption anytime until I am blue in the face on how it is the best thing that could have ever happened to us. As far as my husband and I sharing our children’s birth histories with others, we do not do that. These are our children’s own stories and theirs to tell, not ours.

"I would have to say that our experience has been a positive one in not telling. I really hate to even use the words ‘not telling’ because that denotes a secret, which or course, is not and never will be. In not answering their questions regarding adoption and even if they ‘find out’, so what? Again, why are they asking in the first place? That is the million-dollar question!

"We will continue to make the same choice in ‘not telling’." Michelle, IL

Real Moms is a newsletter by and for adoptive mothers. Support, information, encouragement, and networking for domestic adoption are offered to adoptive and prospective adoptive mothers.

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Sixth Online Issue
What to Say
What Not to Say

Fifth Online Issue
NACAC 2000 Report
My Special Mother's Day Gift
To Tell or Not to Tell The School About Adoption)

Fourth Online Issue:
Questions to Ask a Potential Birth Mother
Worth the Fight
Our Adoption Trip

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