2013 Annual Report
When I was in my mid-20s, I read these words by the abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman: “Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” I recall thinking at the time – regarding myself as a realist, not a cynic – that pursing such an idealistic vision might feel good for a while, but it’s a sure path to frustration and disappointment.
More than anything since then, my experience at the helm of the Donaldson Adoption Institute has taught me that I could not have been more wrong. For over a decade, I have had the privilege to work with colleagues on the Board and staff who are strong, patient and passionate. Most pointedly, I have had the enriching experience of reaching for the stars with them and, more and more often, of actually grasping one and helping to change a part of our world.
None of our dreams for improving the lives of all parties to adoption would have even a faint hope of coming true, of course, without the support of our donors, large and small. Your generosity sustained us during the lean times of the recession, and it is arguably even more vital today, as the Institute grows its staff and stature, its unique programs and projects, and most important, its influence and impact on behalf of the millions of children, youth, adults and families whom we serve.
Please read through this Annual Report to learn what DAI has accomplished just in FY13 alone, and to get a glimpse of some the ambitious initiatives we’re planning for the months and years to come. Here’s a short preview: As part of its ongoing national Keeping the Promise initiative, DAI last September published The Vital Role of Adoption Subsidies and enlisted some of the most significant organizations in the fields of adoption and child welfare to partner with us on a national education/advocacy effort for children in foster care who need homes, and for the families who provide them.
Three months later, to high praise and considerable media attention, we released Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption. This landmark report was the first-ever examination of the historic ways in which new technology is reshaping an age-old institution; Untangling the Web II is now being completed for publication.
That initial paper was followed up by Proceed with Caution: Asking the Right Questions about Adoption on the Internet, a guide for adopted persons, first/birth parents and adoptive families looking to avoid the pitfalls that are all too common in cyberspace. For many reasons, we believe this multi-year internet project is among the most important work we’ve ever done.
In April, we released A Family for Life: The Vital Need to Achieve Permanency for Children in Care, a summary of the Institute’s findings from years of research into promising, innovative practices in England, Canada and the U.S. We plan to publish a book-length compendium, with far more detail, instruction and recommendations for professionals, in early 2014.
I hope you can see that we’ve used your contributions wisely and well – and you can be certain that we’ll keep doing so. It’s not a stretch to say that I believe the current fiscal year will be among the most productive we’ve ever had, with two reports (A Need to Know: Enhancing Adoption Competence among Mental Health Professionals and A Changing World: Shaping Best Practices through Understanding of the New Realities of Intercountry Adoption) recently released, and much more research, publication and advocacy in the works. Please visit our website for more information on all of DAI’s initiatives.
As ever, I’m extremely grateful to the Institute’s Board of Directors for its steadfast commitment to and support of our mission, and there are no words to express my deep thanks to my talented staff colleagues – starting with Program Director extraordinaire Susan Livingston Smith – for their dedication, for their friendship and for the stars in their eyes.
Most of all, I extend my profound, abiding appreciation to you, our supporters, who provide all of us with the inspiration, financial wherewithal and other encouragement to keep us going. I hope that as you read through this Annual Report, you will feel a genuine sense of pride for the part you have played in making our achievements possible. I also hope you will return the enclosed donor card or visit our website to renew your support as generously as possible.
In some ways that are tangible and in others that are not, you make it possible for all of us to pursue – and realize – our dreams. For that, I could not be more grateful. On behalf of all of us at the Adoption Institute, thank you.
2012 Annual Report
WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN FOR THE ADOPTION INSTITUTE!
From our national “Keeping the Promise” initiative (our award-winning program that helps families who adopt from foster care); to the launch of our latest and potentially most significant and impactful project (called “Untangling the Web,” on the historic ways the internet is changing adoption); to path-breaking research from the decline in intercountry adoption to preparing families and professionals for greater openness and transparency; to shaping positive identity development for adopted children; to providing influential legislative testimony, professional trainings and hands-on advocacy for equal rights and best practices in adoption; the Institute has once again been at the forefront of the issues that matter most to the adoption and foster care communities.
We could not be more proud of our accomplishments, which we invite you to learn more about in our Fiscal 2012 Annual Report. We also know we could not possibly have produced such influential, important work-or helped improve so many policies, practices and people’s real lives-without your generous support. That is not hyperbole; the Institute has no endowment, so it is your commitment, you volunteering, your use of our work and, vitally, your donations that enables us to produce the high quality work for which we have come to be known.
Thanks to a deeply committed staff and Board, the Institute has grown into a genuine national leader that works tirelessly-and effectively-on behalf of the millions of children, youth and adults for whom adoption, foster care and other families are an everyday reality. With your support, we will not only continue our cutting-edge programs and projects, we also will be able to increase their scope and their impact, while ensuring the Institute’s long-term health.
Please remember the Adoption Institute as you make your end-of-the-year charitable giving plans by donating online. If you have questions, just write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance for the confidence you place in us, and have a wonderful holiday season.
Susan Notkin Adam Pertman
Board President Executive Director
Read the Report
2011 Annual Report
STRETCHING SMALL RESOURCES . . . TO ACHIEVE BIG, TANGIBLE IMPACT
One of the most heartening compliments I receive about the Adoption Institute’s effectiveness – and I hear it frequently from funders and many others – came most recently from the Diversity Director at an elementary school at which I had given presentations for parents and teachers as part of our Educate the Educators Program. “I know you have a small staff,” she said, “but what I see in your newsletter, your website, your publications and in the media is the work of a far larger organization. … I simply marvel at how much you do with so little.” In the 15 years since the Institute came into being (feel free to wish us a Happy Birthday), we have indeed built a model to be proud of.
Utilizing a handful of very talented and dedicated staffers – augmented by our esteemed Senior Research Fellows, interns, volunteers and scholars who work with us on individual projects – we have helped to reform state laws, change agencies’ policies, and develop and implement better practices. Our team has also conducted seminal and far-reaching research, written important books and other publications, held highly praised conferences, and advanced the knowledge and performance of journalists, mental-health professionals, movie and television producers, educators, judges and policymakers. Most importantly, as a result of all those successes, we have improved the lives of uncountable numbers of children and families.
As the year draws to a close, I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of you who have enabled us to do our essential, unique work by offering your time and wisdom, donating your hard-earned dollars and providing pro-bono services, in-kind contributions and other support. Here are just a few examples of what we’ve accomplished during one of the most-productive, highest-impact years in our history:
• Keeping the Promise, a major project that puts an unprecedented focus on the post-placement services needed by families who are struggling because their children were abused, neglected or institutionalized before they were adopted. This work is being hailed as a gamechanger in the field, and we’ve embarked on a series of next steps to implement key recommendations in the year to come and beyond.
• Expanding Resources for Children III, an ambitious initiative to identify and shape best practices for agencies working to find more families for “waiting” children (older or with special needs) by expanding the pool of qualified gay and lesbian parents. And Never Too Old, an effort to help one of the most vulnerable populations in our country: older youth who “age out” of foster care without families or other permanent connections to help them deal with the daunting challenges in their transition to adulthood.
• I’m proud to say that Institute authors had three books published during the last year: Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families – and America (written by yours truly); Adoption by Lesbians and Gay Men: A New Dimension in Family Diversity (edited by Research Director David Brodzinsky and me); and Facing the Rising Sun: Perspectives on African American Families and Child Well-Being (written by Board of Directors member Oronde Miller).
• We recently began three cutting-edge projects that promise to have significant impact for many, many children and families for decades to come – one focused on the current decline in international adoption, with the goal of increasing the number of children who move out of institutions and into permanent, loving families; another, the Camp Clio project, in honor of the funder’s deceased daughter who was adopted from South Korea, to create best practices for helping adopted children develop positive identity and self-esteem at (truly fun) camps designed especially for them; and yet another that examines and shapes best practices for adoption on the internet – possibly the most sweeping initiative we’ve ever undertaken.
• Of course, we’ve continued our hands on efforts to level the playing field for everyone in the “Extended Family of Adoption” through additional work on our For the Records (adult adoptees), Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents and Adoptive Parent Preparation and Support initiatives. And we still improve the lives of children and families by working with parents and teachers in schools, by writing commentaries and providing numerous interviews in the media, by holding trainings from coast to coast for social workers and other professionals, and on and on.
Imagine what we’ll accomplish when the economy gets healthier, donations increase and our budget grows!
I’ll end this letter by expressing my deep gratitude for the people who make these achievements possible, who I am delighted to call my friends, as well as my colleagues. They start, of course, with the Institute’s extraordinary staff and Board, which is perhaps the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, thanks to the leadership of President Susan Notkin, Board member extraordinaire Sandy McManus and an array of truly committed directors (including three new ones, Tim Bunch, April Dinwoodie and Emily Forhman). My sincere appreciation also goes to our partners, who enable us to further stretch our resources, expand our influence and accomplish so much for children and families: the Child Welfare League of America, Spence-Chapin, LifeCare, Adoption Learning Partners, Adoption Quarterly and – the latest addition to this esteemed list – Adoption Today magazine.
Thanks to your contributions, large and small, the Adoption Institute has grown into one of the most-respected, most-important, most-consequential organizations in the worlds of adoption and child welfare. Today, as you consider which causes and organizations to support at year’s end – and into the future – I respectfully ask you to think about not only where to send your donations, but also how far they will go and the impact they will have.
We promise to keep doing a lot with a little … and, with your help, to do even more.
I wish you a joyous holiday season and a healthy, successful year to come.
2010 Annual Report
The second-most-frequent question people ask me at conferences and other appearances (after “Who is Evan B. Donaldson?”) is some variation of the one in the headline below, and that’s fair enough. After all, the Adoption Institute doesn’t place children for adoption or pro- vide a direct service like counseling, so what is the intent of our work and who are its beneficiaries?
It’s a particularly good time to address that question because, in the past year, we’ve completed some of the highest impact and most important work in our history. And that’s where the answer lies – in what we deliver and what its effects are on real lives.
ANSWERING A BIG QUESTION…
Our multiyear study entitled “Beyond Culture Camp” is a perfect example. It provides the deepest examination to date of how to shape positive identity for adopted people, especially those whose race/ethnicity differs from that of their parents. This work has been praised as “groundbreaking” and “invaluable” by everyone from adult adoptees to their parents, from adoption practitioners to mental health professionals. Most pointedly, its specific, hands-on recommendations are being widely used by agencies to assist families – and by families to help raise their children.
“For the Records II” is our latest initiative to achieve equal rights for adult adoptees, just as we work mightily to do the same for birthparents and adoptive parents because, as a col- league once told me, smiling: “The Institute isn’t on anybody’s side; it’s on everybody’s side.” That’s exactly right, and so I’m proud to say that this latest research-based report is being utilized across the country by activists, policymakers, legislators – and by me when I testify in various states – to bring about legal changes so that all adopted adults can get the same medical, genetic and historical information about themselves as their non-adopted peers.
Also in the past year (actually, just a few weeks ago), we issued “Keeping the Promise,” a major publication that puts an unprecedented focus on the services needed by families who are struggling because their children were abused, neglected or institutionalized before they were adopted. Numerous child welfare and adoption organizations have endorsed this work and hailed it as a vital step for enabling adoptive families to succeed. There’s a lot to be done to implement its recommendations, but we finally have a road map for tangibly improving many, many thousands of lives.
I hope those descriptions make the intent of our work, and its beneficiaries, crystal clear. We do not just publish papers and hope that greater knowledge will instigate incremental change; rather, we provide the research-based tools – and the leadership – for achieving systemic progress for everyone touched by foster care and adoption, and for adoption itself.
All of us at the Institute strive to achieve that ambitious goal every day, and I’m delighted to say that we’re succeeding. The recession has made the job tougher, to be sure. But we’re able to do it because the stature and impact of the Institute are growing, and so are the numbers of individuals, companies and foundations who recognize the unique value of our work.
I’ll end by expressing my deepest gratitude to all of you who share our vision and enable our efforts to achieve equality, ethical best practices and social justice in the world of adoption. Those include our strategic partners – such as the Child Welfare League of America, LifeCare, Spence-Chapin and Adoption Learning Partners – and our major funders, who are listed in this Annual Report. A very deep bow also goes
to our extraordinary Board President, Susan Notkin, and her fellow Directors – including our newest Board members: Anne Chambers, Hollis Forbes, Leslie Pate Mackinnon, Jennifer Evans Montgomery and Anne Youngblood – for their hard work and dedication, without which this organization quite simply could not exist.
I’d also like to extend a warm word of appreciation to the staff of the Institute, especially our Associate Director, Tara Linh Leaman, who joined us six months ago and is already making her mark; our outgoing Interim Development Director, Nancy Tran (we’ll miss you); and our new Development Director, Bill Boltz. We employ some of the most talented and respected professionals in their fields, and it is my privilege to call them my colleagues and friends.
Most important, of course, are the people reading this Annual Report. You volunteer with us, tell us your stories, give us invaluable input and write the checks – large and small – that pay for our salaries, our rent, our research and our advocacy, so that we can continue to serve the too-many children who still need permanent homes, and the millions of families who provide them.
We cannot possibly thank you all enough but, through our accomplishments, we will try. I wish you a joyous holiday season, and a healthy and successful year to come.
p.s. To answer the first question (who is Evan B. Donaldson?), go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/about/history
2009 Annual Report
EVEN IN A WEAK ECONOMY . . . OUR WORK KEEPS GOING STRONG
A few examples of recent comments about The Adoption Institute from ground level: An adoptive mother wrote on her blog that one of our studies had provided her with “invaluable information” with which to better raise her child. An adopted person, in an email, said our work had helped him “feel more whole” and “empowered.” A birthmother called to thank us for a report that “really hit the mark … and gave me hope that the world will one day get who I really am and treat me with respect.” An adoption agency official, over coffee, told me that the Institute’s work is enabling her social workers around the country to “improve what we do for real people every day.”
Usually, when I describe the organization I’m privileged to lead, I talk about instigating broad, systemic change – that is, the laws and policies we help to reform, the ethical “best practices” we help to shape, the knowledge-based testimony and materials we offer to legislators, the dependable information we provide to the media and other professionals. But it’s critical to point out that none of those are the ultimate, intended beneficiaries of our programs and projects. Rather, they are all the means for achieving the Institute’s vital, singular mission: tangibly improving the lives of the children and adults who do not think about adoption, foster care or orphanages in terms of systems or policies or practices, but as integral parts of their personal reality.
And so, as I recall the past year, I don’t think mainly of the big accomplishments the Institute was able to contribute to our world, though there were plenty of those and I urge you to read about them in this annual report. Instead, it is the individual communications from people young and old, people who sought our help or benefitted from our work, that remind me most vividly of why we do what we do.
I spent a lot of time in schools this year, striving to achieve curriculum change, for instance, so that adoption and foster care are included in their understanding of their students and their implementation of diversity, inclusion and lesson plans. But it’s the one comment from one teacher – “I never thought of all this before; I’m going to change what I do in class starting tomorrow” – that touches me most profoundly, because it demonstrates that our work is making a genuine, concrete difference.
I could give you many more examples from communications with adoptees, birth families, prospective parents, journalists, practitioners, policy-makers, and on and on. But I’ll spare you, because you get the idea. In a nutshell, since we are not a service agency, we do not place a single child into a permanent, loving home; but when we do our work, thousands of kids get such homes and many tens of thousands more have better lives. When they call or write to tell us their stories, when we hear their voices, they resonate more powerfully than you can imagine.
Before I sign off, I want to thank the people who make all of our initiatives possible: our superb staff (welcome to the team, Kerri Johnson), our deeply committed Board (including our newest Director, Doug Mehne, and especially our exceptional President, Susan Notkin) and, of course, every one of you reading this report. Without your support, your volunteered time, your hard-earned dollars – which you continue to give generously even in these challenging economic times – we simply couldn’t continue to serve the millions of children and families who are indeed the ultimate, intended beneficiaries of our work.
Stay tuned in the year ahead for more high-impact projects and additional professionals doing the good work of the Adoption Institute as we restructure our staff to improve its performance, build our Board to make it even stronger and more supportive, and keep taking on the major efforts that shake entire systems, to be sure, but that are felt most keenly by the individuals within them. A parent wrote just last week to say that the Institute’s work “continues to break down barriers, educate people, and build a better world for every child and family touched by adoption.”
To borrow a phrase, that’s change you can believe in. Thank you for making it possible.
2008 Annual Report
A YEAR OF MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS… WITH A BIG PLAN FOR MORE
A funder of one of our projects (on finding more families for children in foster care) once asked me: “How the heck do you accomplish everything you do on your budget?” The question was meant as a compliment, because he essentially was saying that the quality, impact and volume of the Adoption Institute’s work are far greater than most nonprofit organizations our size – i.e., small – are ever able to attain.
There is no one answer, of course. As the past year clearly illustrates, our successes stem from a creative combination of a sharp focus on identifying and filling the most important needs for children and families; leadership that brings together a wide range of professionals and activists; a dedicated and supportive Board of Directors; and, most important, staff and Senior Fellows who are among the most committed and accomplished in the field.
Among the Adoption Institute’s most important achievements in 2008 was one that you – the people we serve – couldn’t see: formulation of a Strategic Plan to ensure that our work does the most possible good over the next five years. We all will be navigating uncertain economic terrain for the foreseeable future, so this roadmap couldn’t have arrived at a more vital time. It will help us use our resources more effectively than ever and, most pointedly during this time of fiscal uncertainty, it will ensure that every dollar we receive will be used thoughtfully, deliberately, and to achieve maximum impact.
The Plan establishes detailed programmatic priorities for every area in which we work (domestic infant adoption, adoption from foster care, intercountry adoption, and adoption-related legislation and advocacy), as well as for our highly effective educational initiatives for professionals such as journalists and teachers. And it lays out the specific ways we will build our organizational capacity and financial stability so that the Institute can expand its role as a catalytic leader in the field and, most imperatively, so that it can continue achieving its unique mission of systemically improving the lives of children and families by shaping better laws, policies and practices.
Examples include Beyond Culture Camp, a ground-breaking research project that in coming months will provide essential insights for professionals and families into how to develop positive identity for adoptees, especially those adopted internationally; a multifaceted Adoptive Parent Preparation Program, which will enable professionals beginning this year to better educate prospective adoptive families in critical areas.Read the Report
2007 Annual Report & 5 Year Retrospective
FIVE YEARS OF GROWTH IN OUR WORK, STAFF… AND IMPACT
The Adoption Institute has come an extremely long way, in every
respect, in the last five years. In fact, we’ve got our strongest staff and board ever; we’re more financially secure than we’ve been in a very long time; and, most important, we’re doing more and better work – and are having a greater impact – than at any period in our history. Obvious words like “proud” and “happy” and even “relieved” spring to mind as a result. And one other important word, too: appreciation. Because we could not have reached this point without the help of many individuals and organizations. First and foremost, a deep bow to the generous, supportive members of our Board of Directors, and especially to Sandy Kresch, my extraordinary colleague and friend who is entering her last year as Board President. Without her, we simply wouldn’t be where we are. So, on behalf of everyone she has helped and enriched during her tenure, I want to express our heartfelt gratitude. A huge “thank you” as well to our two agency supporters – Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children, which created the Institute as an independent entity just over a decade ago, and The Cradle
which stepped in when we needed assistance the most. Both agencies exemplify the best in adoption practices, and both continue to demonstrate their belief in our unique mission with ongoing funding and in many other ways.
Thanks, too, to our extraordinary staff, which has grown from just two soon after I joined the Institute five years ago to 10 full- and part-time personnel today, including some of the most esteemed professionals in the field. They include accomplished scholars like David Brodzinsky, Susan Livingston Smith, Hollee McGinnis, and Jeanne Howard, and our talented new External Relations Director, Laura James. And, in addition to my 10 staff colleagues (who keep our costs low and our output high by working in a “virtual office” arrangement in five states), we’ve taken on legal and social work interns in both our New York and Boston offices, we have volunteers around the country and – I say the following with enormous pride – our innovative year-old Senior Research Fellows Program is allowing us to draw on the work and the talents of nine of the leading adoption and foster care experts, researchers, and educators in the field.
It is because we have such talented personnel that we’re able to produce such cutting-edge, high-impact programs and projects. Here are just some examples of our latest initiatives, including a few that are about to be released: the Adoptive Parent Preparation Project; For the Records: Achieving Equality for Adopted Adults; Unintended Consequences: Reshaping the Law to Help Abandoned Infants; Beyond Culture Camp: Creating Positive Identity in Adoption; Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents; Adoption in the Schools: A Lot to Learn; Expanding Resources for Children Who Need Homes: Gay and Lesbian Adoption; Assisting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care; and the Role of Transracial Adoption.
And there’s more. In addition to this annual report – which looks back at our last five years of growth and impact – we’re looking forward with a new strategic plan, which will be completed by year’s end. The plan lays out a vision for the next several years that includes exciting elements such as an additional staff member based in Washington, D.C., who will oversee
and expand the Institute’s legislative efforts; a greater focus on advocacy and implementing change; and more initiatives to help children move out of foster care and orphanages into permanent, loving families. At the same time, we’re launching a redesign of the Institute’s logo – which will upgrade the appearance of our web site, reports and other materials, and which symbolizes the extraordinary, positive change that we are experiencing.
We’re able to increase our work, and the people who do it, because of the growing number of organizations and individuals who generously provide their support. That bodes well for our future, and for the tens of millions of people for whom adoption is part of everyday life. Among those to whom we are most grateful are the foundations that have made so many of our projects possible, including the Kellogg Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, and the Human Rights Campaign, among others.
Please read more about our staff, our Board of Directors, our influence, our successes and, most important, the breadth of our work, within this report – and find even more information on our website, www.adoptioninstitute.org.
The list of our initiatives is diverse and growing every day; the common denominator among them is that they all are designed to improve people’s lives and to help children who need permanent, loving homes. Looking back at the last five years of achievement, it’s fair to say that we accomplish what we set out to do.
Which brings me to my final words in this message, and they are to all the contributors, volunteers, and friends who support us in innumerable ways: Thank you.
1999-2001 Biannual Report
THE DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: MAKING ADOPTION BETTER… FOR EVERYONE
The Donaldson Adoption Institute moves its mission forward by providing a reliable, unbiased and respected voice for adopted children, biological and adoptive families, and adoption professionals. We work to promote sound adoption policy, practice and laws that reflect ethical standards and reliable research—with respect for all members of the adoption triad.
The Adoption Institute improves the lives of people touched by adoption through many avenues:
- Offering law makers reliable information and practical perspectives to improve adoption laws;
- Providing the media with a trusted source of information;
- Encouraging employer support for adoption;
- Reducing barriers that impede adoption of children who need permanent families;
- Researching policies and practices that affect adoption;
- Educating policymakers and the public about the importance of giving adopted people access to information about their origins;
- Developing a legal framework to ensure access to health histories and a clear delineation of parental responsibility for children born through reproductive technology; and
- Promoting ethical standards for adoption professionals.
The Adoption Institute also responds immediately to urgent human needs by putting best practices into action. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Adoption Institute shared its expertise on best practices in adoption and child welfare with government officials providing disaster relief. To assist children who lost custodial parents, the Adoption Institute designed and is directing the Permanency Project, which provides comprehensive services to children and their surviving caregivers. The Permanency Project will work tirelessly to ease the transition to a new home for some of these children and to help stabilize families in trauma. In the coming year, the Institute will deepen its many collaborations with policymakers, researchers, practitioners, adoptive parents, adoptees and birthparents, with the goal of making adoption better for everyone.Read the Report