Easing the Transition into High School with PAC-UK

Some 12 years ago we adopted our two beautiful girls. Having soon settled into family life and taking on our new responsibilities our weekly routines revolved around making sure they got to experience and try lots of different things. –play groups, swimming, dance, music, etc.

Richard & Sarah, Adoptive Parents

As the years have gone by the girls have progressed through pre-school, primary and on into high school. Throughout this time we have always been open and honest with them about their adoption, letting them have access to their birth story and seeing pictures of their birth parents. We have talked to them about why they were adopted and always tried to explain what happened, for them to be moved to be with their forever family.

As children grow, more questions are asked and in particular other children start to ask questions that our daughters might not ever have thought of until it was asked of them. Alongside the questions from peers, the school curriculum starts to get more in depth from year 6, which results in even more questions being asked and more thought going into why they were adopted.

From year 6, children can become very vulnerable and they have to deal with a lot of anxiety and pressure from the education system:

  • SATS tests in year 6 are far more demanding than ever before
  • Studying evolution at primary school and where we inherit our looks
  • Transition to High School
  • Teenage years are looming
  • Homework
  • Sex Education at High School – without parents being aware

Noticing a change

We first started to notice a change in our eldest daughter after only a short time at high school. She became very moody, non-compliant with home life, reluctant to put any effort into homework and very aggressive when challenged over her behaviour. Our happy, loving girl was becoming withdrawn and unapproachable. She then seemed to have a breakdown where she was re-living things that had happened to her when she was a baby and living with her birth parents.

We contacted our Local Authority Adoption Services. Through them we were allocated a Social Worker who worked with us to help our daughter. It was soon clear that we needed additional professional help for her to reduce her anxieties. She was offered Therapeutic Counselling, but this alone was not going to be enough.

It was at this stage that we were introduced via our Local Authority to PAC-UK, who was just about to start a project working alongside adoptive parents and schools. They had recognised that our daughter did not only have to overcome her adoption anxieties, but she also had to overcome the difficulties that she was having at school that weren’t obvious to the teaching staff:

  • Social acceptance
  • Differentiated curriculum
  • Attachment disorder

Finding help with PAC-UK

We thought we had informed the school of everything we needed to before she started, and we thought we had prepared her for this transition. But it had soon become apparent that she was out of her depth and was not coping. School had not recognized this and we felt that we were becoming the over-protective parents that weren’t being listened to.

This is where we found the contribution of PAC-UK to be outstanding. We started attending a Parents Forum facilitated by PAC-UK, where we met other parents in similar situations. It was great to see that we were not the only ones that were experiencing these difficulties. We could sit and talk to everyone about the monthly topic and share our experiences, both with the other parents and PAC-UK professionals.

After the initial Parent Forum meetings the process then moved to PAC-UK arranging meetings with the school:

  • Meeting with the SENCO
  • Training teachers and teaching assistants in Attachment Disorder
  • Facilitating meetings between us and key staff

At last we felt as if we were being listened to and that the school acknowledged that there was a problem that they had to address.

The professionalism shown from PAC-UK, and the input they had in these meetings has been invaluable. We were finally being listened to. Objectives/strategies were put in place and we gradually began to get our happy loving daughter back again. Although she still struggles with her learning, she is now learning at a level that is appropriate to her and her confidence is growing. The staff in school have become more aware of how children can hide their emotions at school (as they want to please everyone) but release it when they get home. They now work alongside our daughter to help her with her homework and make sure that the work is pitched at a level that she can access.

In addition, PAC-UK then facilitated our younger daughter’s transition to the same high school. Strategies were put in place BEFORE she started and she had a named member of staff who she (or we) could contact should there be any problems. This transition has not been trouble free, but if PAC-UK had not been involved then we feel sure we would have been in the same situation that we had been in two years earlier.

In conclusion, the service that PAC-UK offers, the professionalism and knowledge that they have about the struggles experienced by adopted children are second to none. Their input has helped our family grow alongside the education system that can be so challenging for our special children.

*Please note some details have been changed to protect identities

Further information

We have set up this page to enable birth parents, adoptive parents or other permanent carers to share their stories, and hopefully help encourage others to seek support from PAC-UK. If you are interested in sharing your own experience please contact us here.

For press and media enquiries please contact us here.