How Adoption Impacts Social Emotional & Academic Development

All children vary in their cognitive, social and emotional development though most achieve recognizable milestones along the way. Adopted children and children in foster or other non-birth parent care, have experienced significant trauma which has marked ramifications for their development. They are often behind their peers socially and emotionally. Behavioral and academic expectations need to be geared to their developmental, not chronological, age.

By the time children reach the first grade, they become capable of more clearly understanding the meaning of adoption. For some children, this awareness leads to feelings of being different from others, as well as to feelings of loss or rejection.

Academic achievement can be affected if a child is occupied with grieving the loss of former placement families and attachments or fantasizing about birthplaces, birth families, and alterations in birth situations. Focus can be disrupted; concentration broken. – Adoptive Families Together

Joyce Maguire Pavao believes that all adoptees experience what she calls the “normative crises” of adoption. As their understanding develops, adopted children reprocess their history and identity. They bring additional layers of emotional and developmental complexity into the learning environment. Understanding the motivations and triggers behind their behaviors allows their IEP team to appropriately address their educational needs.

Language Development and International Adoptees

International and trans-cultural adoptees who have also experienced the loss of a first language and may have significant deficits in academic language and development that are masked by excellent pragmatic language skills.

Unfortunately, neither adoptive parents nor school personnel realize that a child’s conversational proficiency in English is not enough to ensure the mastery of the English language needed for age-appropriate academic functioning.– Boris Gindis

Language delays are of particular concern to internationally adopted children because they have such a forceful impact on literacy development. This is especially a problem for older children who arrive at school age.

Older internationally adopted children present many complex issues, The children often are delayed in their first language, have little or no exposure to English upon arrival, have had little or no schooling, and have often experienced trauma, neglect, poor nutrition, lack of health care, and few positive emotional bonding opportunities.

All of these factors, and others, will influence the child’s ability to learn English as a second language. These children are not typical immigrants or refugees who have a known family to provide support. All ties to the adopted child’s first language and culture have been terminated abruptly, often in a 24-48 hour period.

Researchers in communication disorders are finding that young, internationally adopted children who have been institutionalized before placement not only exhibit delays, but also display unusual language-learning patterns because of the simultaneous loss of the first language while learning a second. – Christen Pearson

My Personal & Professional Experience in Adoption

As an adoptive parent I have first hand experience with the impact of adoption on my child’s ability to learn. She has struggled with multiple factors related to language acquisition and the normative crisis of adoption and I have worked to educate her team and advocate for her individual adoption related needs throughout her academic career.

As an adoption professional since 2006, when I co-founded and became Executive Director of ASAP, Adoption & Foster Care School Awareness Project, whose mission was “to increasing awareness, support and advocacy in the schools and community for adoptive and foster families and our children,” I have produced four adoption conferences, consulted with schools, libraries, and parents, published several articles on adoption related topics and acted as contributing editor to the Educators Adoption Awareness Notebooks.

As a Special Educational Consultant Advocate, I am pleased to be able to offer this expertise in addition to my training in special education in order to help children who have joined their families through adoption or foster care receive an appropriate and meaningful education.