SAFE at School

by Marilyn Schoettle S.A.F.E. at School is a well-regarded training program for educators whose goal is to create a positive school environment for all students about adoptive families and adoption. Although most educators truly want to meet this goal, it can be challenging because:

  • Adoption is a complex topic about adult decisions made to address issues that are difficult for children and many teens to understand; educators also need to determine what is appropriate for their school;
  • There is a history of secrecy around adoption that continues to impact knowledge and comfort level about this topic;
  • The focus of learning about adoptive families in many schools tends to become intrusive and personalized by focusing particularly on children in school who were obviously adopted;
  • A lack of educational materials makes it difficult for school personnel to prepare for addressing this topic; many educators have only their personal experiences to draw on when attempting to share information about adoption with their students; and
  • Research has shown that the self-esteem of adopted children is strongly impacted by whether their teachers and classmates reflect acceptance of adoption as a way to build families, but most educators do not have training about how to do that in a proactive manner.

S.A.F.E. at School is available as a workshop and manual which provides teachers and counselors with critical foundational information about children’s normal developmental understanding about adoption, common thoughts and feelings of adopted children as they grow up, and potential manifestations of adoption issues in school situations. Five key strategies are covered in depth for normalizing adoption as a way to build families: 1. Acceptance Goal: Normalize adoption/adoptive families by demonstrating both personal and social acceptance of adoption as one way to build families. 2. Accuracy Goal: Educate students about adoption/adoptive families by providing accurate information at the appropriate time and in an interesting way. 3. Assignments Goal: Construct curricula to ensure inclusion of students in adoptive families. 4. Assistance Goal: Identify appropriate boundaries and language about adoption/adoptive families. 5. Advocacy Goal: Prove that your school will take action to support students in adoptive families if comments or questions about adoption/adoptive families become invasive or critical. S.A.F.E. helps educators identify appropriate boundaries which ensure a comfort level for themselves and their students. They will become familiar with Six Spots Where Adoptees May Get Stuck, helping them to know when to discuss concerns with school support staff or parents. It addresses the complexities of special learning and emotional needs, some of which are the result of pre-adoptive experiences, which may impact school performance. Also included is information to heighten awareness of some special tasks for adoptive parents, and techniques for ensuring good home-school communication about adoption issues. History, facts and resources are provided to understand the revolution occurring in adoption today. For more information about the workshop and S.A.F.E. at School: Support for Adoptive Families by Educators, A Manual for Teachers and Counselors, contact the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Inc. (C.A.S.E.) at The S.A.F.E. workshop and Manual were created by Marilyn Schoettle, director of education and publications at the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Inc., an independent, non-profit organization offering support and education services to families formed by adoption.

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