Secret diary of an adoptive parent

Here adopter Eliza* recalls how the invaluable support from an understanding headteacher made all the difference when two of their three adopted children faced starting their new school a few years ago.

Education can be a common challenge for adopters. Finding the right support for your child throughout their school life is crucial but can be a bit of a minefield. Diagrama is committed to offering comprehensive lifelong support for its adopters and has now appointed a dedicated education advisor to help address those challenges and offer guidance on accessing the best help for your child.

Okay, so our dream has come true, we have our ‘ready -made’ family placed with us. Three gorgeous cherubs - two school age and a toddler - and despite some friends and family thinking we were actually barking mad to want THREE children , and simultaneously, here we are… at home.

I’m a primary school teacher and have taken time out to be with my children. After all, I have waited a LONG time for my family, so I am going to make the most of being a mummy now.

Of all of the challenges we’d anticipated, nothing could have prepared us for the suddenly daunting prospect of our girls going to school for the first time.

Picture the scenario, our two school aged children, luckily for us, left their previous school a couple of weeks early at the end of the summer term to a fanfare of parties, farewells and a special celebration party to which their new mummy and daddy were guests of honour. And now, they were hundreds of miles away in their new home, with their new family, new area, new school … and a whole new life!

Finding a place at school

We’d already had a slightly stressful time as one local school only had a space for one of our daughters, we didn’t want to send them to our other catchment school as it was a separate infants and junior school, meaning they would be separated, so we applied for a place at another local school, nearer geographically but, ironically, not our catchment area. As Looked After children, they did go straight to the top of the waiting list for a school place, but first we had to wait for confirmation of space…

When we received it, we were then VERY lucky to find the acting head teacher was very aware of what a daunting start our girls would have.

Issue one was, should our younger daughter actually be starting school with her peers, the same chronological age?

Well, not only had she been severely neglected, but as birth parents had lied about her actual age, she had started school late AND she would be about to enter year two illiterate. Because she did not have a statement of special educational needs, and even though she was one of the very youngest in the year, she had to join her correct age group. Not only that, but she needed speech therapy, had ongoing problems with her ears, and unbeknown to us at the time, a stigmatism in both eyes. And she still occasionally soiled herself.

The importance of good preparation

So, she would need additional support within school, but no extra funding to provide it.

Thank heavens for an AMAZING headteacher. She prepared laminated books for the girls with a “who is who” in school, photos of the school, classrooms and so on which we were able to share with them. Likewise, she arranged for the girls to have a tour during the summer holidays and to actually meet their respective teachers and classroom assistants, all before the start of the autumn term. What a blessing this was, in terms of reassuring them both.

We were able to see the classrooms and cloakrooms and know where they would need to stand in the mornings, which we were then able to discuss. The need for constant reassurance has been something which all three of our children have needed in bucket loads from the outset so this preparation was priceless.

Respecting their identity

Our girls have called us Mummy and Daddy from day one - their choice and they were desperate to have our surname. So, when they started school, although they were still looked after and not yet adopted, we ensured the school called them by their ‘new’ names - coat pegs, books and so forth all labelled. This is something though which needs discussing and deciding from the outset.

Amidst all of this, I hadn’t factored into this equation the intrigue from fellow parents and pupils. Where are you from? How long have you lived here? Where was your last school? And so on.

Likewise, what were the children going to say about this? What was their background story? What did they want people to know? All of these issues are further chapters in our story, including THE playground experience and fellow parents!

Eliza

If you would like to read more about Eliza’s adoption journey, follow our blog for regular updates.

Find out more about the appointment of Diagrama’s education adviser and how you can access support here (link to article announcing appointment – article to follow). If you would like more information about adopting a child with Diagrama or would like to attend one of our information evenings, please call us on 0208 668 2181 or email us today.

*Name changed to protect privacy