Elementary School Counselors' Perceptions of and Practice with Students Adopted Transracially

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Date
2015-09-17
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Publisher
Virginia Tech
Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of elementary school counselors working with students adopted transracially (SATr) and their families. Previously, the voices of elementary school counselors have been omitted from the limited scope of professional literature available related to school counseling practice with SATr.

Using a phenomenological method, research questions were developed to capture the perceptions, needs, and practices of elementary school counselors working with SATr and their families. The purposeful sample of 11 participants represented elementary school counselors from Northern and Southern Virginia and West Virginia. The participants had professional school counseling experience ranging from one to 27 years where they worked with a range of one to over 200 SATr and their families. A structured analysis process was used that included coding (i.e., open, axial, selective), writing textural and structural descriptions that were verified by participants, and developing composite summaries. This structured process uncovered the categories, sub-categories, and themes leading to a core category. Bracketing was used to maintain the trustworthiness of the research study.

The findings included eight themes as continuums reflecting the various perceptions, needs, and practices of the participants in working with SATr and their families. The shared lived experiences can best be described as a 'CONTINUUM OF COMFORT AND CONFIDENCE' whereby elementary school counselors relied on using foundational counseling skills, understanding human development, applying multicultural competency, and being sensitive to adoption related practices. Additionally, they continually refined their practice strategies in being responsive to the needs of SATr and their families.

Although the findings of this study cannot be generalized, the narratives of these elementary school counselors offer important insight and generate recommendations for practice. Salient recommendations include frequent collaboration among school and mental health counselors, the need for elementary school counselor advocacy to promote acceptance and inclusion of SATr and their families, and the necessity for counselor educators to include coursework on transracial adoption. Future research with middle and high school counselors, SATr and their families who have used school counseling services, and professional development training will deepen our understanding for inclusive comprehensive, developmentally appropriate school counseling programs.

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Keywords
elementary school counselors, transracial adoptees, phenomenology
Citation