School brings up so many issues with your child. When do you send your child to school? How much do you disclose to teachers? Should you enroll your child with their birth name? What about the dreaded family tree project? And the list just goes on.
It all depends on the age of your child, and whether or not he or she is already in school. If there is an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place, be sure to read it very thoroughly, and plan to have a meeting either prior to enrollment of your child, or very shortly after. A transitional IEP should be put in place.
As far as what name to enroll your child under, for legal reasons your child must be enrolled with his or her legal name at the time of enrollment. Most schools will allow a child to be called a name other than what they’re registered as. If your daughter’s biological name is Suzy Jones, but it will be changed to Suzy Smith once the adoption is finalized, they may have listed in the classroom as Suzy Smith. However, talk to your child about his or her feelings on this. Your child may not be ready for this. Other children want to take their “new name” as soon as possible.
The big question is how much you should tell the school. This is another personal decision. If there is a school psychologist that your child would be working with, make an appointment to see him or her. Explain that you are adopting a child from foster care. If there are issues that you know will come up in school, talk to the psychologist about how to deal with those ahead of time. Inform the psychologist of any diagnosis that your child has that will be relevant to school. If you do not feel comfortable disclosing the reasons for your child’s placement in foster care, you do not need to. There may be information already in the school file. You will want to get a copy of that file and see what has been disclosed.
To find out what your rights are, when it comes to the schools, go to Wright’s Law. This website will teach you how to advocate for your child when necessary, what the laws are for children with disabilities (physical or emotional), and how to find resources. There are hundreds of articles that will help you to help your special needs child. You may also sign up for a free weekly e-newsletter.
There comes a time in every adopted child’s school career when they will face the dreaded family tree project, or be asked to bring in baby pictures for a project. This may present emotional difficulty in your family, whether the adoption has been finalized or not. There is an excellent book, entitled Lucy’s Family Tree, by Karen Halvorsen Schrek, that addresses this subject and offers suggestions for completing family tree (and other, similar) projects. I recommend checking it out.
Alternatively, it might be in your child’s best interest to be homeschooled. You have the legal right to choose to home school your child if you want. There are certain laws that you must adhere to in order for this to be legally recognized, and to keep yourself from falling under truancy laws. Some states are less restrictive in their regulations than others. A little research should help you prepare to meet your state’s homeschooling standards.