At Sheridan, we know families are formed in many ways, including by adoption. Two years ago, our school counselor, Phyllis Fagell, began an affinity group for students who joined their families through adoption. Below she provides an overview.
1. How did Sheridan’s affinity group for students who joined their families through adoption begin?
A student’s parent suggested the idea, and I loved it.
2. Is it student-driven or do you come with questions and guide the discussion?
I usually start the conversation by asking if anyone has something they’d like to discuss, then provide a guiding question if they need some help. From there, I facilitate the conversation. Sometimes it’s more about being in the same room with other children who have something in common with them and that alone is valuable. On some occasions, I bring in guest speakers who also have been adopted, typically older students who are not in the group. The guests love it and so do the students. They tend to ask the older kids a lot of questions about their experiences.
3. Can you share any broad examples of the discussion topics?
Curiosity about their biological parents is one. Students may be wondering what it would be like to meet them or how to navigate getting to know them in some cases. Processing these feelings through talking — or sometimes through creative means such as journaling or writing letters that they don’t actually send — can be helpful.
4. What benefits do you think the group brings to those who are participating and to Sheridan as a whole?
Whole communities benefit when individuals feel safe and have a sense of belonging. It’s important to expose kids to others who are different from them, but it’s also critical that they engage with others who share salient aspects of their identity.
5. Any advice to other schools that might want to consider doing something similar?
Think loosely about the kids in the group. A child who was conceived using an egg donor, for example, might feel that they share some similar concerns with kids who were adopted. Also, there may be other issues that come up. For example, kids may be grappling with emotions around having a different background than their adopted parents, or around being an only child, or around having same sex parents. Also, don’t conclude that it’s a place to only process negative or unsettling feelings. There’s a lot of joy in adoption group!