Realizing nothing changes

01 Oct

New school year, new rash of posts about the dreaded Family Tree assignments for adoptees (and all the variations of these types of assignments, genetics, etc.).  Questions about how they should be done, what to include, what not to include, the feelings of the children.  How to get the teacher to understand about adoption, what handouts should be given.  Not to mention the added impact on children who spent years in Foster Care, or were adopted from another country who will have noticeable gaps, or doing the assignment can make them seem different to their peers.

Every. Single. Year. This. Happens…

It’s frustrating to read the posts.  It’s even more frustrating to recognise that people are okay with this continuing to happen, not just for this generation, but the generations of adoptees yet to be.  It seems they are only worried about their own children getting through it, not fixing it.  Where is the sense of community that rallies when they want something changed in adoption?  Where is the push for this to change from the adoption professionals who lobby for easier laws to adopt, to cut a father’s rights, to shorten a mother’s time after birth before she can irrevocably sign away her rights, to get the adoption tax credit refundable, and more.  Why isn’t the adoptive parent community pushing their adoption agencies to lobby for state and national curriculum standards for these type of lessons that aren’t modelled after the two-parent biological family, rather inclusive of all types of families, including adoptive.

My question is why – if you all support adoption so much, believe adoption is so beautiful, then why can’t you rally together about something that seems like such a big deal for your adopted children every single year?  Have you ever written to your adoption agency, and asked what can be done to make school assignments more inclusive?  Have you asked them what they’ve done to make it better?


Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Adoption, adoptive parents


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22 responses to “Realizing nothing changes

  1. momsomniac

    October 1, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Our school does a timeline of your life assignment. This could still be tough for many kids, but Son 2 did this one with gusto, included the Korean flag and signed his name in Korean. The only place we still have “family tree” assignments is Korean school, and with many adoptees now attending, they have simplified it to a picture of you and a picture or pictures of “your family” (which the child can define as they wish). So, at least here, this seems like an obsolete assignment.


    • TAO

      October 1, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      It’s not obsolete elsewhere though Mom. I just don’t understand why this isn’t something worth looking into changing, not reacting too, year after year. There are so many different family structures today that it seems like this should be able to be fixed.


      • momsomniac

        October 1, 2015 at 8:38 pm

        I agree. I am just baffled about where it is happening. I have a feeling it’s a north eastern thing in the U.S. (and there are reasons for me thinking that but it would derail this thread, I think). And I don’t really know.


      • beth62

        October 5, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        I think I am confused by many of the reactions. I don’t really get it. Ancestry and blood and legal connections will never go away, I can’t see how it is possible to be ignored or banned. They will always be part of “Family”. The way we record it and talk about it can be changed. In more truthful non-warped hidden ways hopefully!


  2. Karine Cichocki

    October 2, 2015 at 8:08 am

    I don’t know what it’s like today but I know I flipped out back in 1978/79 when I had to do my life story ‘from birth’ I cut myself off from my adoption story completely and begged my adoptive mom to help me fabricate a story in which I was born to her. I knew she wasn’t comfortable with me talking about being adopted at school and I just wanted to be like the other kids. I hated that teacher for insensitively insisting the ‘autobiography’ had to be ‘from birth’
    But the big problem was the emotional incongruity within my adoptive home. I was told adoption was something to be proud of but that I shouldn’t talk about it at school as it was ‘private’
    I felt like I’d broken a huge taboo when I reported that I’d mentioned it and I just wanted it to all go away.
    That school assignment was probably the single most painful and poorly handled, unhealthy incident in the formation of my fractured adoptee psyche. The school was insensitive but my adoptive family too was dysfunctional and not able to help me deal with the truth. It takes a lot of preparation to be a ‘good enough’ adoptive parent…


    • TAO

      October 2, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Oh Karine – I’m so very sorry. How hard that would be to grow up with being told such opposite messages…wow…


  3. Jess

    October 4, 2015 at 1:28 am

    Not sure I agree such assignments should be banned outright. Every adopted person has to learn, unfortunately, that the world turns on the paradigm of born children living with natural family. Even with adoption acceptance being as high as it is today, people drop clunkers on adoptees all the time, just like they do any other minority. When my kid came home with the family tree assignment, we would talk about how clueless it was and how far she (my kid) could push back. Usually, DD’s line in the sand was that she didn’t want to get up and broadcast her life story to the class—fair enough. (I urge parents to help adoptees find their own line in the sand.) Provided she didn’t have to do that, she didn’t much care what she said as long as she got a good mark. On one high school assignment (yes, I was surprised to see the family tree assignment persist this far), DD simply left a whole section blank and added a terse footnote that stated, “I don’t know. I’m adopted.” I asked how her teacher reacted and she said she said nothing but looked embarrassed. And she got a good mark too.

    If we remove all these challenges from our adopted kids, we do not give them the tools to negotiate their adopted status publicly while maintaining their need for privacy and autonomy. And I believe that adoptees educate better in these situations than APs and adoption agencies, who, if approached, would probably give AP-centric versus adoptee-centric advice, anyway. Because we all know who their customer is,

    Karine, I am sorry this assignment had such a terrible impact on you. You needed support to get through that hurdle, and someone to stand up for you.

    Thanks for letting me get on my soapbox, Tao.


    • TAO

      October 4, 2015 at 3:20 am

      Hey Jess – no where did I say that it should be banned outright – just that it should be reworked to provide all students with assignments that work for their type of family – surely someone has enough ingenuity to create a better model, it may even exist but say whoever is in charge of curriculum only recognises one model. SSM is legal now in 50 states, adoption has been legal since the 1800’s, so many single parent families exit – that it truly needs to be reflective of many different types of families. Worst case – include SS families and adoptive families in mandatory curriculum for teachers – no adoptee needs to deal with a clueless teacher…


  4. Jess

    October 4, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Well, I think every kid should have to deal with a certain about of cluelessness and offence because that is what the world will dish out no matter what. My point was that “dealing with” is a skill–my kid just got hit with a zinger on the first day of University, but she handled it. Also, knowing something about adoption agencies and something about curriculum (because of my job) I would not advise agencies to get involved with this. Communication from students and parents through teachers, principals, and school boards is probably the way to go. The family tree assignment has gone out of favour in my locale anyway, not because of the variety of families–most everyone recognizes that diversity–but because of the circumstances in which very young children sometimes arrive in Canada, for example, as refugees.


    • beth62

      October 5, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      I’m with you Jess, dealing with is a skill. I’m still working on it too! I think things change as we age as well… and ways taught to deal with it should be with that in mind.

      I think getting to change the ways people are recorded regarding marriage and adoption would be a great place to start. Would be a good help for schools and general ancestry education for anyone.

      Not enough options on the family tree programs. Too much is hidden still. And it all reaks of old money families AND especially ideals of marriage.

      With adoption I found I had different ways to choose from.
      My birth certificate plainly says, and gives me proof that my adopted family is my genetic/bio family.
      Like it or not I have that option to use, and I have occasionally.

      I’ve “enjoyed” getting out of projects like this by saying FU LOL I don’t have to do this, haha, I’m adopted and am not permitted have a clue, do you?

      I’d urge parents today to attempt to build a tree online for their kids ancestors and their ancestors. I really think it would be helpful for all to get a better look at the whole picture, together. It could give great practice with everyone talking about it and learning how to talk about it as well as how to deal with many of the facts of life we all get to deal with in adoption.

      I know it has helped me as an adult to be able to speak more with other people, including family, about all of my heritage. It gave me factual sure footing, better language and a more correct understanding to speak from.


      • Mommy

        October 12, 2015 at 4:07 am

        Oh, yeah, Beth, tackling some of that would be great. Ancestry porn seems quite riddled with snobbery.


        • beth62

          October 14, 2015 at 12:18 am

          That’s for sure. I’ve gotten reported by snobs several times now for not hiding facts about people in MY family like many others attempt to do. As well as for having a public tree. One crazy snob insisted that I MUST make my tree private.
          Some poor clueless innocent adult adopted child may see the truth about themselves if they look. Or some family member might find out that their grandparents are first cousins or siblings… or that so and so were married post-baby….and what? Drop dead? Die of embarassment? Uh, they’re already dead LOL

          I am the evil wrong one? I think not 🙂 and neither did the god. I got freebies.
          I love doing that. I confess I absolutely love old family secret busting.


  5. momengineer

    October 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    My daughter has been given the assignment twice with some variations. The first was a family tree, but all students were advised to use a substitute if someone’s info was missing. It was pretty funny with a single adoptive mom and her Uncle Mike. The second was biology with two random students creating their “baby” with some characteristis chosen by dominance and some by a coin flip. The very brave teacher even went into the future with some same gender “couples” creating a baby. My daughter learned more about genetics with this assignment than any traditional family tree.


  6. onewomanschoice

    October 7, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    I don’t remember my son doing the family tree assignment in school (we live in Texas).

    When he was in pre-k, he did bring home a picture of a tree and they could put stickers on the tree and right all the people in their family but it wasn’t genealogy assignment. Another thing the teacher did was chose a child each week to the be star. Each child got this opportunity. With that came the opportunity to not only shine but to do a poster about themself. They could post pics, draw, and/or write about whatever mattered to them (pets, activities, etc). I like that idea.

    I am just curious about what purpose is it for the school to have the kids do a family tree? What is the age group that this occurs? What is the message or the lesson they are hoping to teach? These are the questions that I would pose to a school or teacher.

    Like you said, Tao, it is conflicting on the whole adoption is good or bad. We can’t have it both ways, if we are truly honest about this act.

    On another side, it could also be hurtful for someone who lost their parent to death. Or if they have a step parent and/or step siblings and for that matter half blooded siblings. It just starts to get so convoluted and I begin to wonder should a school really be that involved in someones personal story. Especially if the child is expected to share all the information with the class.


  7. jazzygirl

    October 29, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Tao! I once had an adoptee share similar feelings about the “family tree” assignment she was required to complete while in elementary school. She was so anxious about it that her parents stepped in, and she was able to get out of doing the project. I never had that assignment when I was a kid, but I’m pretty sure if I had, I wouldn’t have known how to deal with it very well! On the other hand, another adoptee shared with me that when he was young, I think elementary school aged, his mom would come to his class every year and talk to his classmates about international adoption. She would show his “arrival” video as I recall to the class and age appropriately talk about what international adoption was. I asked him if it made him feel awkward, and he said maybe a little, but that he also liked that his mom came to his school classroom to talk about being adopted across cultures, etc. I wonder how other young adoptees might feel about their adoptive parents doing something similar? I think personally it would have made me feel better about myself at that young age, but I’m not other adoptees. Anyway, thanks for your post! And I also really like the Walt Whitman quote you posted on your homepage!


    • TAO

      October 29, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks Jazzy! You are right, there is no one size fits all about whether a parent going to the classroom would be good or embarrassing to an adoptee. I think it has a lot to do with age, a first grader compared to a seventh grader – probably a world of difference in embarrassment levels. I so wish that the whole assignment thing could be revamped nation wide to make it more options based on the projects each student can choose. Something needs to be done…

      Liked by 1 person


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