Navigating the Needs of School Age Adoptive Children


As a mother of seven, four of whom are adopted and are currently school aged, I have experienced quite the gamut in dealing with school issues. Of my three adopted children, all are different and require varied handling.

One child is very bright, excelled beyond expectations and quickly performed at her appropriate grade level. Two years after she was home, her teachers had no clue she had spent the first eight years of her life in another country and that English was not her native language. After assessing her accomplishments, personality-type (very competitive), and her abilities, her teachers and I and came to the conclusion that she needed to be placed in a higher grade level.

Another one of my children, a sibling to the child above, started school and had much more difficulty in the beginning. With the assistance of her teacher, we advocated for her and she was able to get a lot of early interventions in speech, math, reading, and more. Today she is doing well in most subjects. Working with the school and advocating for your child is very important, otherwise things such as language, or the fact that they were adopted will be used as an excuse to NOT intervene early on.

Lastly, my son who was adopted at age 11 came home and was immediately thrust into the school system. The first year, I had no expectations other than that he gain language abilities. However, after two years, it was very apparent that he was not gaining any ground educationally. Thankfully with his ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher as an ally, we were able to get him assessed for special services and an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). I initially had to get outside screening to show that he was at a 7-8 year old level and that he had sufficient learning disabilities. This was the ammunition I needed to get the school to seriously consider that my son’s problems were not just language issues and he now has a plan in place that I feel confident will give him the help he needs to flourish and grow in his education.

My advice to those parents that have adopted older children is to stay on top of their education. Watch to see how they are progressing. Communicate with teachers and find out their personal opinions about how your child is doing. It is your right as a parent and your child’s right to receive an education that matches their needs and abilities. Most school systems do not know how to deal with children that have been adopted at an older age; they are more used to dealing with children that have intact families.

MLJ Adoptions is passionate about placing children in forever families. But, our passion doesn’t stop there. We want our children to thrive in their new surroundings and we want our families to know that we are here to provide tools and knowledge to ensure that their adopted children thrive.

To that end, we have invited Dr. Boris Gindis, a national expert on school age adopted children to speak at our Crossroads of America Adoption Conference being held on September 15th. You can learn more about Dr. Gindis at Dr. Gindis will be available for a limited number of one on one sessions on the day of our conference. If you have concerns about your school-aged adopted child and would like to speak with Dr. Gindis, please contact Nicole.

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For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

Lydia Tarr works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Bulgaria and Ukraine. She is the adoptive mother of four children from Ukraine and was recognized as a 2013 Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Angels in Adoption Program.