Four Key Pillars Drive The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s New Vision

Dear Friends,

Early in 2013, The Donaldson Adoption Institute Board of Directors made the commitment to expand the reach and impact of our work and adopted a plan for growth. In October of that year, I joined the team as Chief Executive. With so many changes happening within our community and with us, we thought it would be helpful to share some important updates.

Since 1996, the Donaldson Adoption Institute has utilized a unique “activist think tank” model to research, advocate and educate legislators, journalists, educators, mental-health and child-welfare professionals and the general public on the issues of greatest interest to the adoption and foster care communities.

Building on and honoring DAI’s legacy of research, education and advocacy that was built by so many, including my predecessor Adam Pertman, will be critical as we set a new and inspired path forward. With a clear and strategic focus we will continue to uncover and amplify opportunities to encourage adoption reform and practically meet the needs of our ever-evolving community and the professionals that serve it.

We have brought our new vision to life launching our new website and quarterly newsletter. Both of these enhanced tools allow for more engagement and the opportunity to deliver dynamic research and content. In addition, a focused foundation for growth is being set within DAI’s four pillars: The Adoption Experience, Foster Care Adoption, Adoption Support Services and The Modern Family.

The Adoption Experience
Focusing on the entire adoption community (first/birth parents, adopted people, adoptive parents and extended families of all), DAI works to improve the adoption experience and strengthen families by promoting healthy identity in adopted people, safeguarding the rights of parents (first/birth and adoptive) and educating practitioners, professionals and policy makers.

Foster Care Adoption
DAI’s targeted research and advocacy helps to ensure the most vulnerable children and families receive the timely attention and quality support they deserve as they navigate the system.

Adoption Support Services
“Re-homing” serves as the most recent and disturbing example of what can happen when children and families are not properly prepared and supported before, during and for many years following an adoption. DAI works to increase access to quality pre and post-adoption education and training to ensure the wellbeing of individuals and families.

The Modern Family
The landscape of American family life is rapidly changing. Nowhere are these changes being felt more strongly and directly than in the areas of adoption, foster care and assisted reproductive technology. DAI encourages the acceptance of diverse families and believes that all families can benefit from quality support.

With the four pillars in place, we have our work cut out for us and we accept the challenge to continue to engage in the substantive and important work to improve the lives of children and families.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire DAI family, we wish to express our deep gratitude to Adam Pertman for his dedication to DAI, the adoption community and professionals in the field. We wish Adam well in his future endeavors. Adam will now be known as “Executive Director Emeritus” in recognition of his years of service.

Stay tuned for our next newsletter which will focus on our Adoption Support Services pillar arriving in your inboxes the last week of July.


April Signature

April Dinwoodie
Chief Executive

Search and Reunion Research Survey

Much recent media coverage has centered on adoptees gaining the right to access their original birth certificates. From New Jersey’s decades long effort to achieve legal equality for adoptees to Colorado’s ambitious legislation allowing birth parents access to relinquishment documents, the adoption community is finally receiving the same rights as non-adoption related citizens. Giving adoptees and their first/birthparents the opportunity to discover their history and legacy is long overdue.

Though these are landmark achievements, people who have undergone the search and reunion process know accessing original documents is just the start of a challenging journey to discover their roots. Finding children, parents, and extended family can be an exhilarating and delicate course that often proves emotional, trying, and exhausting on the way to finding identity. It should be no surprise that the more guidance one has in discovering his/her roots, the less painful and more enriching the journey can be. Anything that can be done to prepare parents and children for the unexpected turns when finding family, the better experience they will have.

Learning more about the current adoption search and reunion practices is essential to bettering the lives of everyone touched by adoption We are excited DAI Senior Research Fellow Amanda Baden and researchers from Montclair State University are collaborating with us to understand adoption practitioners’ efforts in this area. The goal of this IRB-approved study on adoption treatment is to increase our knowledge of the current practices among adoption professionals and other search facilitators in assisting search and reunion efforts between adopted persons and first/birth families.

In order to conduct this important work, we need your help. We are looking for participants who are adoption professionals and adoption search facilitators to fill out a brief survey concerning search and reunion work. Specifically we are seeking participants who work in any capacity in assisting with facilitating birth parent/first parent-adoptee searches and reunions or root tracings. This can include therapists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, lawyers, search angels, adoption agency and child welfare organization employees, etc.

Your insight into the current status of adoption search practices will improve professional training and develop more effective services for the adoption kinship network. This examination will improve research, preparation, and policies surrounding adoption and profoundly shape adoption professionals’ practices towards the various clients they serve. If you can, we entreat you to participate in this survey.

The Upside of the CHIFF Debate

On Monday, May 19, the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) sent a letter providing our input on The Children in Families First Act of 2013 (CHIFF/S1530) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate sponsors, other key Members and the Secretary of State.

Along with many of our friends and partners in the adoption and child welfare communities, we have recognized that CHIFF is concerning on many levels. As our letter states, DAI supports CHIFF’s laudable goals: – to place children without families in them, to make intercountry adoption (ICA) by Americans “a viable and fully developed option,” and to “protect against abuses” and ensure children’s best interests in ICA. The unfortunate reality, however, is that S1530 was conceived with only limited stakeholder input and without all of the relevant research and data. As a result, it oversimplifies the complex and multi-layered challenges and possible solutions related to international child welfare and ICA. CHIFF could dilute safeguards, undermine the best interests of the child standard and encourage unethical practices. It also would not assign adequate resources for improving child welfare policy and practice.

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Mother’s Day & Women’s Rights

As a member of the adoption community, Mother’s Day can inspire a host of deeply rooted emotions with pure joy and primal pain fiercely at odds. Thankfully, comfort and understanding can come in many forms; loving care from family and friends who may not fully understand but hold you as tight as they possibly can, kindred spirits within the adoption community who instantly get it and tangible validation in all forms from access to original birth certificates (shout out to NJ) to a very meaningful and groundbreaking acknowledgment bestowed on a member of our community.

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Welcome to our brand new blog.

To access our past posts, please head over to Adoption Nation.