Finding a suitable school for our adopted children can be an absolute minefield. I have read countless Forum and Facebook posts about schools and the overall message seems to be that so many schools just don’t seem to get it or understand the unique behaviour of our adopted children. It seemed that for every 10 negative stories about schools there is only an occasional positive ones, so I wanted to write about our positive experiences.
This is simply our journey and how it worked for us, I thought I might share the process we went through to choose the best school for the needs of our adopted children, when I have been asked In the past the first thing I will always say is you know your children better than anyone else and what your children need, trust that, so what worked for us might work for you. I wish I could promise that, if I could create the perfect formulae that worked for everyone I would currently be sitting with my family on a exotic beach somewhere with millions in the bank… We have been extremely lucky with the school we have chosen for our eldest, which will soon also be the school for our youngest. We started the process of selecting a school very early, even before we got accepted as adopters. We got a list of local schools and went on the web to find out as much information as we could. We looked at results, though this wasn’t the be all and end all we wanted to look at the school as a whole and find one that would be the best fir our future children’s needs (emotional and educational).
We went through the family finding process, fell in love with our two little girls and started the path to panel. During these months we asked as many questions as we could about the girls, read and re-read their notes and spoke to both our and the girls social worker along with their foster mum. Knowing that the eldest would have lots of needs due to server neglect and trauma, as well as already being in school we did focus on her as a priority, the youngest was taken at birth and was still pre-school so her needs would differ. We asked the girls social worker to contact the current school of our eldest, to get information on how she was progressing both educationally and socially, and let us know if any concerns that they had, any plans that where in place and so on. We learnt that she couldn’t count to 10, could hardly read and couldn’t write, and was really struggling with control in the classroom, often being removed from class for her behaviour. Her foster carers where great and did everything they could to get her to do what she needed but having a permanent home and a structure to her learning would hopefully help her come on leaps and bounds. When we had this information we started with a visit the two schools we had chosen. The first was a large primary school in walking distance. On our visit we spoke to both the head and the SENCO and had a tour of the school. Although we liked the school our gut was that it just didn’t seem the right fit for what we had learned about our soon to be eldest daughter, especially socially. Our second school was drastically different from the moment we walked in, Smaller classes (15-25), they seemed calmer and relaxed but no less fun than the first school. The headmaster took us round and knew all the children’s names, we spoke to the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) who told us that they already had a couple of adopted children in school so had some experience of how their behaviour needed managing differently from their peers. We found all the teachers friendly and open to talk to about our fears and we were made to feel welcome, and they were genuinely interested in our girls. Honestly it just felt right.
After a bumpy first panel which is a story for another time, we finally got approved at the next one. We had a couple of weeks before we met them to sort every thing out, Family arrived to help paint and decorate their rooms and build furniture. My wife and I contacted the school and got the eldest enrolled, the school were there to offer us advise and walk us through the registration process. During introductions as we met the girls we asked to visit her current school and speak to her teacher, armed with questions from the SENCO we found out how they managed some of her behaviour and got an update on her progress. All of which we could report back to the school when she started.
After a settling in period she started school on a gradual basis, and we shared the information her previous teachers had given us specifically on her disruptive behaviour. We’d love to say it was smooth but yes there where a couple of bumpy days which the school managed amazingly agreeing to match the style we used at home, and as such she soon settled in. Any issues the teachers would approach and talk to us at the end of the day, agreeing strategy if needed, they were and are very open and caring about all the children and that really comes across with how they interact with everyone. The school and teachers offered her a clean slate, not labelling her as she had become in past schools made allowances at first and most importantly set a foundation for her where school and home were giving her the same message.
Two years on that relationship continues, we had a recent problem at home relating to getting homework done without disrupting the home, that was starting to be a real concern. We met and spoke to her teacher, who listened, cared and together came up with a plan, eliminating the stress at home for us all and still getting her homework done. We can not praise the school enough for all the hard work and help that have given us and more importantly given our eldest the chance to be accepted. It is a credit to the school that she has shaken off her disruptive reputation to become a much loved student, who in the classroom is willing and eager to learn.
The last two years haven’t all been a bed of roses, our eldest had endured 5 years of neglect and trauma and these issues will never go away overnight and she is having counselling to help her deal with these. For now I’m sat here in our kitchen, on a cool spring evening watching the wind gently blow the branches of our Victoria plum tree as my wife gently rocks our eldest on a swing seat and our youngest bounces on the newly brought trampoline – just moments ago my eldest was doing the same and loudly counting as she bounced. Too anyone else this would be nothing special, but to me, well it brought a tear to my eye.