back-to-school: communicating with teachers (a sample email)

When talking with adoptive parents across the country, repeatedly they comment on how adoption inevitably comes up in the classroom setting and they wonder how to discuss adoption with their child's educators. Parents consider if they should even tell their child's teacher about their son or daughter's adoption status because they don't want to draw attention to it or because they fear assumptions will be made. Others wonder how much to share, while transracial adoptive families know from experience that their child's peers and even their educators will be curious about their family's makeup and that questions will certainly follow. Many email me during the school year and ask how to handle the family tree project that was already assigned to their third grader.

Research indicates that the media and anecdotal stories from family and friends inform most people about adoption (yikes, scary! hello, Lifetime movies and Disney storylines!). And we also know that educators are expected to have a knowledge base about so many topics pertaining to kids, development, education, etc. (not to mention, they're usually underpaid and underappreciated -- TEACHERS, PLEASE KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED AND APPRECIATED!).

For these reasons and because I believe educators truly desire to best care for and support each and every one of the children in their classes, I find it helpful to be informative with those who are spending so much time with our children. Along with informing about adoption and its impact on our families, we can also take the time to share about the complexities of adoption and our expectations and desires as it relates to our kids.

I've quoted from this sample email to teachers at my sessions and have been asked to share it. This serves as a basic informative "hello-this-is-our-family-and this-is-adoption" email. You may copy, paste, add, delete, and edit it as you wish. Some of it will not be applicable to your family; other parts of it you might just dislike. Some parents may want to add information about various areas impacting your child such as neurological wiring, medical diagnoses, trauma triggers, or the like.

Please use as you feel appropriate. Certainly I could have included more, but hopefully this covers some of the basics of what we want our kids' teachers to know about adoption.


Dear Mrs. Smith,
Our daughter, Sarah Jones, will be in your class this year, and we are looking forward to a fantastic fourth grade year! Sarah enjoys reading, science experiments, and playing soccer. She is excited to begin school though is going to miss her later summer bedtime.

We recognize that teachers are expected to have knowledge about so many topics affecting students and child development, and having parented Sarah for several years now, we've come to understand that many people have questions about our family. We thought it would be helpful to share a bit about us so you can best understand and support our daughter.

Sarah was born in Guatemala and was adopted by us when she was a baby. While we talk very openly with Sarah about her adoption, we don’t believe her adoption status is relevant to most conversations at school. We understand that her peers may ask her (or even you) questions about adoption and that they will notice that she doesn't "match" her parents. We are so grateful to be Sarah's dad and mom, yet we are mindful that some of these comments and questions from peers and even adults may feel uncomfortable to Sarah, given that most kids yearn to fit in with their peers rather than to stick out and be seen as different or "other". We also believe that Sarah's story is her own and that she should not be expected to share every detail about her adoption with others even though many are curious.

We acknowledge and respect the layers to Sarah's identity (as our daughter, as an adoptee, and as Guatemalan, to name just a few!), yet we don’t expect for her to be used as the example for adoption and/or for racial diversity – what a tremendous burden for any student. We also know that some school assignments may be challenging or even impossible for children who were adopted and/or have experienced trauma, early childhood transitions/losses, etc. Examples of these projects include the family tree, bringing in baby photos, timelines, genetic projects, ancestry projects, etc. Please let us know if any of these projects will be assigned this school year, as we are aware of similar assignments that accomplish the same learning objectives that are doable for all students. We are happy to provide you with information prior to assigning the project(s).

Ways to support Sarah in the classroom include simply acknowledging her adoption status when/if it comes up in conversation without expecting her to share all of the details about her adoption and/or family; keeping your ears open to her peers' sometimes repeated questions regarding her race, ethnicity, or adoption (give us a heads up if this is occurring so that we can be aware and visit the topic with Sarah); understanding that being an adoptee is certainly not her only identity yet is one that may be on her mind more than any of us realize; and keeping in mind that she's a typical fourth grader with strengths and weakness and a unique personality all her own.

Please, should you have any questions about adoption or about Sarah, call or email us, as we recognize that adoption is complex and that no two students or families are the same.

We are looking forward to a fantastic fourth grade year. We appreciate already your commitment to education and to children.


Steve and Linda Jones

{ to keep up with the conversation and other updates, follow me on Facebook }