Adoption Matters

Teacher Educators Share Their Stories and Strategies for Adoption-Inclusive Curriculum and Pedagogy

by Robin K. Fox (Volume editor)
©2018 Monographs XVI, 218 Pages


Adoption Matters: Teacher Educators Share Their Stories and Strategies for Adoption-Inclusive Curriculum and Pedagogy explores the experiences of educators inside and outside of the classroom with students who are adopted. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 1.5 million children in the United States who have been adopted. Adoption is not a new way to form a family, but there have been shifts in adoption practices. Two of those shifts have been the increase in open adoptions and an increased understanding of how international adoption can influence children. Since the 1970s, the work of the Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association and other organizations working on behalf of adoptees has raised public awareness about adoption and spread adoption stories. In the United States, adoption is rarely a secret any more, and many children who are adopted are aware of it. This means that professionals working with children who were adopted need to be prepared to understand the lived experiences of these children and their families. The stories in Adoption Matters describe the experiences of teacher educators and illuminate how adoption continues to shape their professional practice. Educators’ narratives reveal the intricate processes they have encountered in building their own families through adoption, as well as their struggles and triumphs with individual schools and school systems. Adoption Matters hopes to disrupt the notion that adoption and adoption-related issues should be secret, taboo, or dismissed.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Adoption Matters
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword (Holly Elissa Bruno)
  • Children, Draw Your Family Tree
  • Introduction (Robin K. Fox)
  • Section One: Insights and Strategies for Teaching Children Who Were Adopted
  • 1. Adoption: The Gift of Hope and Opportunity (Sharon M. Kolb)
  • The Perfect Plan
  • Our Referral
  • My View of Adoption
  • Times That I Was More Aware of Being Adopted
  • Starting the Search—Opening the Door
  • Meeting My Birth Mother for the First Time
  • My Adopted Adult Story
  • We Are Who We Are
  • Kids Ask the Darndest Things
  • Now
  • References
  • 2. “There Are All Kinds of Mamas”: Exploring Diverse Families Through Children’s Literature (Andrea Maxworthy O’Brien)
  • Brief Overview of Adoption in the United States
  • Adoption in the School Setting
  • Children’s Literature in Our Family
  • Children’s Literature About Family Diversity in the Preservice University Classroom
  • Rationale and Goals
  • Read-Alouds
  • Book Talks
  • Literature Circles
  • Looking Forward
  • References
  • Children’s Literature Cited
  • 3. “I’m Not Related to Anyone I Know”: Adoption, Books, and Belonging (Sara Michael Luna)
  • Norming Family in Picture Books
  • The Chosen Baby to The Coffee Can Kid: Adoption Books
  • Considerations for Early Childhood Teachers
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 4. “I Think I Blew It”: Reconsidering My Stance as a Parent of Children Who Were Adopted in Middle Childhood and Adolescence (Anne D’Antonio Stinson)
  • Highlights of Grade One
  • Grade Two: Here We Go Again
  • Third Grade, Fourth Grade, and the Perception of Poverty
  • References
  • Section Two: Professional Experiences of Teacher Educators Who Have Adopted Children
  • 5. “I Have a Ph.D. and This Is Hard for Me!”: An Early Childhood Educator and Parent of Children Who Were Adopted Rethinks Her Practice (Robin K. Fox)
  • Over- and Underprepared for Parenting
  • Help! I Need a Topic for My Dissertation
  • Microaggressions: It Was a Big Deal to Me but Not You? Why?
  • Examples of Microaggressions Related to Adoption and Family Makeup
  • We Have a Lot of Children Like Her Here
  • Adoption Is Sometimes Everything and Sometimes Nothing, but Race Is Always There
  • References
  • 6. Unpacking Misconceptions Along the Adoption Journey (Elizabeth M. Hughes King)
  • Something’s Different Here …
  • The Sin of Sex or a Beautiful Gift?
  • Gratitude
  • Membership Is a Privilege
  • Otherness
  • Real Family
  • Family Resemblance
  • Finding My Origins
  • Forever Family and Forever Endings
  • Things I Know for Sure, Today
  • The Meaning of Family Resemblance
  • Christianity, Traditional Religion, and Moral Absolutes Can Be Tremendously Problematic
  • Gratitude Can’t Come From Feeling Marginalized
  • References
  • 7. When Four Became More (Troy Moldenhauer)
  • 8. Bridging Three Continents to Build a Family and Enhance a Career (Tracey G. Scherr)
  • What Is School Psychology?
  • My Path to Adoption
  • Trauma and Resilience
  • Early Intervention
  • Diversity, Intersectionality, and Discrimination
  • Advocacy for Students Who Are Marginalized
  • References
  • 9. Through the Lens: Family Videos, Adoption Stories, and Instrumental Truths (Wade Tillett)
  • References
  • Section Three: Personal Experiences Arising From Adoption by Teacher Educators
  • 10. “He Can’t Be Your Dad!”: The Intersection of Race, Adoption, and Gay Marriage (Johnny Cole)
  • References
  • 11. That Was Fun. Let’s Do It Again!: Adopting Older Children From China Having Already Raised One Family (Lana Collet-Klingenberg)
  • What Grade Will Your Child Be in for the 2017–2018 School Year?
  • A Year to Prepare
  • Going to China to Bring Home Our Sons
  • Summer School 2017
  • The Effects of Trauma on Attachment … and Everything Else
  • Honoring Jingshu and Qingfeng’s Birth Culture
  • Hello Kegonsa Elementary!
  • Hugs and Kisses Are for Family—High Fives Are for Everybody Else
  • Medical This and Medical That
  • Moving Forward as a Family
  • References
  • Additional Resources
  • 12. Renewed Perspectives for Health Promotion Education (Brandi S. Niemeier)
  • Traditional Parenting
  • Nontraditional Parenting
  • Renewed Perspectives and Health Promotion
  • A Shift in Teaching and Practice
  • References
  • 13. Raising a Global Family and Balancing a Career as a Single Parent (Penny Portman)
  • Tolerance and Understanding
  • Managing Time and Responsibilities
  • Reducing Stress
  • Becoming a Global Citizen
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 14. And the Greatest of These Is Love (Mary Kilar)
  • 15. More Than Textbook Knowledge: Truths About Adoption Arising From Life Experience (Ozalle Toms)
  • Student
  • Teacher
  • Student
  • Teacher
  • Student
  • Teacher
  • Student
  • Teacher
  • References
  • Conclusion (Robin K. Fox)
  • Contributors
  • Series index

| ix →


The idea for this book started in the halls of a small Midwestern comprehensive university after my wife and I had gone through the adoption process to build our family. As a faculty member in the Teacher Education Program, I remember thinking that there might be others at the university who also felt seismic changes in their pedagogy after adopting children, or maybe they had not but I knew I wanted to find out and to have their stories told. Additionally, I knew there were colleagues who had been adopted and wanted them to have the opportunity to share their stories so we (in teacher education) might learn from those with the lived experience of having been adopted and with the hindsight of adulthood.

Thank you to the authors of each chapter for sharing their stories about how adoption has changed them as teachers, administrators, teacher educators, school psychologists, and social justice advocates. I am honored to be on this journey with you and acknowledge that for many of the authors writing in this deeply personal method was quite different from the writing style that helped them through graduate school, achieving tenure or moving to full professorship. Thank you for being honest and vulnerable.

Program coordinators, department chairs, assistant deans, associate deans, and deans have supported me throughout my time at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Katy Heyning who has served in so many roles and provided support across the spectrum. Most recently, as the Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, she has offered encouragement for this project. Brenda Stevens, my assistant, has worked on multiple projects related to this book and I am thankful for her attention to detail and interest in my writing. Additionally, I want to thank the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for funding the UW-Whitewater authors to develop their chapters. I am so thankful ← ix | x → to the series editor Dr. Virginia Stead for her timely, thoughtful, and constant support. Dr. Stead offered gentle prods that helped to bring this book to fruition.

My mom (Janice Fox) was the first person to talk to me about adoption and how it was one of the ways that people formed families. Those discussions decades ago built the foundation for my openness to adoption. I thank her for that and thank both of my parents for joining us on this adventure which is one I am certain they didn’t think they would be on but nonetheless have been extraordinarily supportive. In addition, to Joan Simes and Dan Braun, Skip Simes and Laura Medina and Kathi and Keith Olson, thank you all for supporting our children, our family, our lives. To Erica and Paul Schepp thank you for the many, many family dinners, play dates, trips to P-Town, driveway fires, laughter, and tears as we raise our children together. For everyone mentioned here, thank you for listening to me as I droned on about this book. I appreciate that you fueled my excitement by sharing your thoughts and asking how the process was coming along.

Finally, to thank my wife and children for whom without them this work would not have been possible. To my wife, Kim who is my most staunch supporter, I am forever thankful we found each other. Thank you for reading and rereading my writing, talking through the excerpts to make sure I am honoring the story and making sure, I have not overshared stories, which are not mine to tell. I could not imagine parenting with anyone but you. Brennan and Sanibel you are gifts I often believe I am not worthy of having received. Brennan, thank you for your humor, your way of seeing the world, your stoic silence at times, the way your nose crinkles up when you are laughing so hard, and for the joy you bring me every day. Sanibel, thank you for laughter, for your kind soul, your tender care of all people. Kim, Brennan, and Sanibel thank you for letting me hide in the basement to write and your understanding when I had to bow out of some family stuff. I hope I have honored our family’s stories and you are proud.

| xi →



Children, Draw Your Family Tree

Teacher Tammy, who prefers to be called Mrs. Butterworth, has given each new class of hers the same assignment for years. Secretly, she enjoys finding out about her students’ personal lives. Come October 1, as she does every year, Mrs. Butterworth cheerily announces her “My Family Tree” assignment, not noticing the discomfort on some of the children’s faces. She tells the class:

Your homework is to draw your “family tree” tracing back your family’s history as many generations as you can. Be sure at a minimum to include your grandparents on both your mother and father’s sides. Whenever possible, post a photograph of each person in your family. Under each person’s name, list DOB (date of birth), place of birth, maiden name and profession.

Here are some examples of what past students have done. Luis rolls his eyes. His parents, neither of whom is a U.S. citizen, have cautioned him not to tell anyone anything about his family. Maddy is scared. Her momma says her daddy was a cheating married man and won’t even tell Maddy his name. Vu is confused. He does not know who his Vietnamese birth parents were, but he knows his two American mammas, Amelia and Emily, love him very much.

What would you do if your child came home with this assignment, as my son did? I was stunned! My son was upset. I wondered how a teacher could be so insensitive to the diversity of children in her classroom. I had a very different experience when I first came to present at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s (UWW) annual Early Childhood Conference where I met the editor of this book, Robin Fox, who also coordinates the conference. I was delighted then and become more impressed each year with both ← xi | xii → creativity and the depth of the program. Year after year, the workshops have become more and more trauma-informed and sensitive to the lifestyles of different families, gender fluidity, and children who are “otherwise able.” No topics are taboo. Hence there are no elephants in the UWW classrooms.

I am an author of five books on Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs. I served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Maine, Assistant Dean at the University of Maine Law School, Dean of Faculty and Associate Professor at the University of Maine-Augusta. One of my most humbling moments was the day my students voted me the school’s “Outstanding Professor.”

That’s my story “on paper.” But let me tell you my real story, the story of becoming a mom through adoption. He’s My Son and I Love Him. The social worker from the adoption agency slowly and deliberately cautioned: “We want you to look at this child’s picture and take your time. Decide when you are ready. He’s approximately ten months old. Nothing is known of his family history in Korea. He is available for adoption.”

Take my time? I wanted to leap to the heavens through the ceiling! How could I not love this boy with his black hair all akimbo in natural spikes and the “get me out of this chair, NOW!” intensity in his coal black eyes? “He’s my son and I love him” my heart announced, as it has again and again over our 33 years together.

“He’s my son and I love him” has carried Cole and me through more challenges than we ever imagined. He was in diapers until he was seven. His language and other “developmental delays” resulted in his biting far beyond the “terrible twos.” He drooled so fiercely, he sported a steady rotation of colorful bandanas everywhere, continuously changed by teachers and me to keep him snug and dry.

Once Cole took his first step, he never walked again: he bolted! Movement was such a joy to Cole that his scrapes and bruises never slowed him on his quests. Cole, all of eighteen months, was babbling up to me from his stroller as we meandered down Exchange Street in Portland, Maine, one July afternoon. Mom and son, enchanted by velvety cascades of salmon-hued impatiens and boldly alluring covers of Dr. Suess books in store windows, stopped whenever something tickled our fancy.

Then we were stopped! Abruptly. An older couple got in my face demanding to know: “Why did you adopt him when there are so many American babies to adopt?” My heart again spoke: “because he’s my son and I love him.” Then the tears flowed. Cole and I got through that moment by feeling, sharing, learning (or praying to), and moving on. ← xii | xiii →

Adoption stories like Cole’s and mine are in many ways the stories of any family in any location or of any ethnicity or of any constellation from two moms to no mom. We all have our stories to tell of the forces that could have overcome us, but they didn’t. Ours are stories of feeling inadequate and overwhelmed, overjoyed and wondrously blessed. Our stories may echo your stories. For sure, we would love to hear your experience, strength, and hope.

After all, families formed through adoption are in the business of learning to love. That original yet archetypical journey flows with tears, erupts with laughter, and holds deep promise for learning. Consider your own experience in a family: Have the difficult times proven to be your greatest teachers? As Rumi advises, “the dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Are not our children messengers from beyond, helping us learn to see through our own blind spots?

Adoption doesn’t create a family. Love creates family. As Cole’s Mom, I continue to tread my life-long path of learning to love, including this: I am learning (no longer just yearning) to love myself. Loving Cole was always as natural as marveling at the sunrise or gasping in awe at a shooting star. Loving myself through my mistakes as a parent? That has been difficult, although I am grateful that I am getting better at forgiving myself. Fred Rogers reminds us that “the toughest thing is to love somebody who has done something mean to you, especially if that somebody is yourself. Look inside yourself and find that loving part of you. Take good care of that part because it helps you love your neighbor.”

Comparing myself to other parents who adopted children or to birth families is something I have done many times just as some of the authors included in this book have done. I have learned that identifying is far more rewarding than comparing. With comparison, someone always comes up short and it was usually me.


XVI, 218
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 218 pp., 2 tables

Biographical notes

Robin K. Fox (Volume editor)

Robin K. Fox holds a B.A. in early childhood education from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a M.A. in early childhood exceptional education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a former Head Start teacher and director, university childcare teacher and director, and is now a professor in curriculum and instruction. She is Associate Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Dr. Fox is on the board of directors for Adoption Choice, Inc. Her areas of research include teacher preparation and adoption, young children who are gender fluid, and work with schools on how to be inclusive of members of the LGBTQ community.


Title: Adoption Matters
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