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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adoptive Family Trees: A splintery subject

I found this on this site: http://jimidoodle.blogspot.com/

 We knew it was coming and it finally happened. We had read in many of the adoptive family blogs/journals that the family tree assignment can be dicey for non-traditional families. Monday night, Anna opened her homework folder and spread out the traditional family tree structure on the table and immediately became frustrated that her family didn’t fit into that mold. She said, “I don’t live with my mommy! I live with Daddy and Papa!” She then freaked out when she saw that her mom’s side would have traditional father/mother for the grandparent entries. Since her mom was raised by two women, that model didn’t work either. There were several grunts of frustration and we had to talk her down and assure her that we would work on finding a solution for her to present to her class. It’s funny, as several of her classmates are from non-traditional families as well, so this isn’t an isolated thing in her classroom. Tod did some cut and paste at his school and made a tree specific for Anna. He also drafted this letter to her teacher.

Dear Wendy,

                Anna had several questions about some of the spots on the version of a family tree that you sent home for them to complete with their family.  We have always been very open with Anna about adoption and her biological family, so she was eager to fill out the section about her mother, but even her mother’s family is a non-traditional family.  With adoptions, single parent families, children being raised by grandparents, and family trees reconstructed with divorce and remarriage, many students would struggle completing a traditional family tree, not just with families such as ours.  Thanks to having access to a computer and a copy machine I was able to create a worksheet for Anna to use to represent her family, but not all families have that luxury. 

For your consideration I have included a couple of blank family trees that you may want to consider using in the future.  There are other ways of completing this assignment as well, without the traditional branches.  You could have the student put his or her name in the center of a target and have them work out from the center to represent the adults that serve a parental role and so on as you work out from the center.  Story web format could be used as well. We are not offended, we knew sooner or later this type of assignment would come up, but we also did not want to miss out on the opportunity to make this a teachable moment.

Sincerely,
Tom and Tod. 
We didn’t get angry, we didn’t get upset, we simply showed the teacher that there were other ways to make this project work. It is our hope that she will adopt these changes and consider doing a project that won’t cause stress to kids in non-traditional families. As times change, the family structure is changing as well. Families are blending, families are fracturing. Children are being raised by other family members as divorce is so common place in our society.  And no Rick Santorum, it’s not the evil gay peoples fault.