The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) is proud to announce the creation of the Lynn Franklin Fund – a unique, dedicated source of financing for research and advocacy on the issues and concerns that matter most to first/birth parents. The goal of the Lynn Franklin Fund is to make certain that the insights, experiences, needs and aspirations of this too-often-marginalized group are heard in every relevant discussion of adoption-related laws, policies and practices. Learn more about The Lynn Franklin Fund here.

The Options Counseling Project

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) is pleased to announce collaboration with the University of Texas, Arlington on a new research study of options counseling experiences. The study will be conducted by Assistant Professor Elissa Madden, Ph.D., and Dean and Professor at the School of Social Work, Scott Ryan, Ph.D., Madden and Ryan will investigate the decision making experiences of women and men who relinquished their parental rights as well as the context and standards that guide professionals who provide options counseling. Ultimately, DAI will seek to use this knowledge to suggest best practice standards

DAI recognizes family preservation as optimal and thus it must be central to ethical options counselling.  DAI’s previous research demonstrates a significant need to better understand and explore options counseling as it is practiced and experienced in modern day adoptions.

For expectant parents in crisis, the services they receive as they consider their options are critical. The ethical standard of care requires that women and men receive unbiased and non-coercive, comprehensive information on the full range of their options and available resources to give them an understanding of the lifelong impact to them and their families.  Only then can they truly give their informed consent. While some professionals have practice guidelines in place that reflect this standard, there are gaps in overall service to expectant parents as they navigate decisions surrounding their pregnancy. 

Historically, adoptions were commonly marked by coercive and shame based techniques, particularly related to the engagement of expectant women.  Adoption policies and practice have advanced in many ways since then, particularly around more openness in relationships and often improved post adoption services. These measures are not, however, universally implemented and there remains a critical need to explore the nature of options counseling expectant parents receive to insure against manipulation and coercion.  Use of the Internet and social media including adoption advertising seeking to attract women in crisis to consider various adoption services, even across state lines where different laws can apply, makes this work more critical than ever. 

Most recently, we read the story of a father who has been battling for seven years to have custody of his daughter returned to him after his rights were abrogated in her adoption placement. Although this father’s pain is palpable during media interviews, and undoubtedly the adoptive parents are also suffering, our greatest concern as a society must be for the child who remains in limbo while the courts seek to unravel this complicated situation. Such situations need not happen if best practices in options counseling were fully known, understood and universally implemented.

DAI anticipates release of the completed Options Counseling study in the second half of 2016. This vital work is made possible by the Lynn Franklin Fund, a unique, dedicated source of financing for DAI projects that focus on the insights, experiences, needs and aspirations of first/birth parents and expectant parents considering adoption. The goal of this fund is to ensure that the voices of this too-often-marginalized group are heard in every relevant and practical discussion of adoption-related laws, policies and practices. The Lynn Franklin Fund is guided by an advisory group, all of whose members have a personal and/or professional connection to adoption, including being first/birth parents. Advisors are charged with offering their expertise in steering projects that fall within the Lynn Franklin Fund to ensure that research, advocacy and education in this area is in keeping with the reality of the adoption experience today.

The Options Counseling project is being led by Brenda Romanchik, LCSW, ACSW, CTS, author of “Birthparent’s Book of Memories” and other publications. Brenda is a therapist in private practice specializing in trauma, grief, and depression.  She is also adjunct Professor at Wayne State University. For 12 years she served as the Founder and Executive Director of Insight Open Adoption Resources and Support. 

The impact of adoption will manifest itself in many different ways throughout a first/birth parent’s life; for many it will be a difficult and complex experience. It is imperative that we seek greater understanding and implement ethical standards in this realm of practice. By focusing research on options counseling, we aim not only to gather information, expand the conversation and change perceptions, but ultimately to safeguard everyone’s rights and wellbeing starting from the first stages of inquiry.

Advisory board

Sue Badeau

Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, writer and consultant with a heart for children and families. After receiving a degree in Early Childhood Education from Smith College, Sue worked for many years in child services and serves on several national boards. Sue writes and speaks extensively to public & private agencies, courts, parent groups and churches. She has worked closely with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Casey Family Programs and was the Deputy Director of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. Sue and her husband, Hector, are lifetime parents of twenty-two children, two by birth and twenty adopted (three, with terminal illnesses, are now deceased). They have also served as foster parents and kin caregivers to grandchildren and are the birth grandparents of a child who is adopted. They have authored a book about their family’s parenting journey, Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids, which can be found on or on Sue’s website – – Sue may be reached by email at She lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Tom Bohnhorst, LMSW

Tom Bohnhorst, LMSW, is the adoption program supervisor at Catholic Human Services in Traverse City, Michigan. The program was instrumental in pioneering openness in adoption and has been facilitating open adoptions since 1980. The agency was among the first to give voice and power to birth/first parents by engendering values of compassion and candor in the adoptive process. As an adoptive father, Tom authored a chapter in Jim Gritter’s 1989 book, Adoption Without Fear, a landmark compilation of the experiences of adopting families. For his graduate thesis, Tom’s qualitative research project focused on the experiences of ten children, ages 8 to 17, who were openly adopted, and presented his findings at the National Open Adoption Conference in 1999. Tom has 25 years of experience as a therapist, social worker, and program supervisor.

Dawn Friedman, MSEd

Dawn Friedman MSEd is a writer and therapist in private practice in Columbus, OH. She is one of the founding facilitators of the All Adoption group, a collaboration between the Ohio Birthparent Group and Adoption Network Cleveland, and is on the steering committee of the Coalition of Adoptive Families, a nonprofit serving adoptive parents and their children in central Ohio. Dawn’s writing on adoption appears in a number of publications including Adoptive Families,, the Ms. Foundation, Bitch Media and Huffington Post. Dawn is both a birth family member and an adoptive parent.

Monica Kuhlman

Monica Kuhlman, M.A., NCC, is the Program Director for Pregnancy and Adoption Services, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Covington, KY. She has more than 40 years of experience working with those whose lives have been touched by adoption, including birth parents and their families, adoptees, adoptive parents and adoptive families. She is the founder of the Northern Kentucky Pregnancy Care Network, a group of non-profit agencies and ministries collaborating to improve the overall health and well-being of child bearing families in Northern Kentucky. She often speaks to educators, social service and health professionals to educate them on the adoption-related issues they may encounter in their work. She holds a Masters in Counseling from the University of Cincinnati.

Ruth McCroy, Ph.D

Ruth Gail McRoy, Ph.D. holds the Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Professorship at Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. Prior to joining the Boston College faculty, McRoy was a member of the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work faculty for 25 years, held the Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professorship and served as Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Diversity Institute. McRoy has published over 100 journal articles and ten books.


Her recent honors include the following: 2004 Flynn Prize for Social Work Research, the 2005 George Silcott Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Administrators in Child Welfare, the 2006 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research, the 2006-2007 University of Texas at Austin Graduate School’s Outstanding Alumna Award, 2010 St. Johns’s Outstanding Scholar in Adoption Award and is a Fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. She has served on the Board of the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and now is a member of the Society for Social Work and Research Board and the Donaldson Adoption Institute Board.


She is president of NACAC and serves on additional Boards, including the Society for Social Work and Research. She was Director of the Center for Social Work Research and Director of the Diversity Institute at the University of Texas, Austin. Her recent honors include the 2004 Flynn Prize for Social Work Research from USC, the 2005 George Silcott Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Administrators in Child Welfare, and the 2006 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research.


McRoy has authored, co-authored or co-edited over 100 journal articles and book chapters and ten books, including: Transracial and Inracial Adoptees: The Adolescent Years (with L. Zurcher), Special Needs Adoptions: Practice Issues, Openness in Adoption: Family Connections (with H. Grotevant),Challenging Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare (with Deborah Green, Kathleen Belanger, and Lloyd Bullard) and Intersecting Child Welfare, Substance Abuse and Family Violence: Culturally Competent Approaches (with R. Fong, and C. Ortiz-Hendricks).

Dr. Temple Odom

Dr. Temple Odom is a Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with complex and blended families.  She is an instructor and supervisor in the Couple and Family Therapy Doctoral program at Michigan State University in the Human Development and Family Studies department.  In class, she teaches program evaluation, Marriage and Family Therapy theory, and Marriage and Family Therapy Supervision.  Clinically, she has worked with birthparents, adoptees and adoptive parents and also with parents whose children live in foster care.  Temple is the birthmother of one child in a fully open adoption, and she is raising four children with her husband.

Ellen Rardin

Ellen Rardin is the director of Adoption Counseling Services, a licensed agency located in Germantown, Tennessee. Adoption Counseling Services provides education, assistance and support to adoptive couples, adopted people and birth parents. Ellen is a licensed clinical social with 27 years of experience in adoption and child welfare. Since 1985, she has worked with over 800 adoptive families, birth parents and adopted people in both domestic and international adoption.

In 1985, Ellen began working in a traditional Catholic agency, St. Peter’s Orphanage, in Memphis. Founded in 1855, St Peter’s had a long-standing adoption program, which also included a maternity home, St. Gerard’s. By working in a well-established agency, Ellen had the opportunity to work directly with adopted people and facilitate their requests for information regarding their background and personal history.

Birthparents, many of whom had placed children for adoption during the 1960s and 70s, frequently contacted the agency, wanting to know “what happened” to the children they released for adoption. These experiences were eye-opening to a young, inexperienced social worker. It was a true “consciousness raising” experience to be confronted by these women’s pain on daily basis.

Ellen’s articles have been published in Adoptive Families Magazine and Fostering Families today. She was named Social Worker of the Year by her local National Association of Social Workers chapter and has been a regular presenter of workshops throughout the Mid-South area.

Ellen is a collector of arcane and rare adoption-related ephemera including brochures, books and pamphlets from agencies such as The New England Home for Little Wanderers, The Willows Sanitarium (Of the infamous “blue ribbon babies”) and The Tennessee Children’s Home. She calls her collection “a museum in bag” and is always happy to share it with others. Ellen believes that learning the history of adoption fosters a deeper understanding of attitudes and practices of the past that still bear a strong influence on current practices.

Ellen has been married to Kevin, a lawyer, for 34 years. She has two children Mary Clark, age 27, an English teacher and copywriter in Costa Rica and Madeline, 23, a recent graduate of Millsaps College.

The most interesting part of Ellen’s work is the opportunity to maintain connections with clients, birth parents, adopted people and adoptive parents. She enjoys seeing how their understanding of adoption changes and develops over the years. She hears from clients from 20 to 30 years ago on a regular basis who have questions, want to fill her in on the “rest of the story” or simply set up an appointment to process where they are now. Ellen considers herself fortunate to be a small part of many triad members’ lives.

Bobbi Richard

Bobbi Richard started her career in adoption 31 years ago. For the past 19 years she has been employed with the Nebraska Children’s Home Society, a large, private, non-sectarian child welfare agency. Her job duties and experience have primarily involved the field of adoption.

In this capacity she provides education and support to men and women experiencing unplanned pregnancies or parenting and facing the possible choice of adoption. Bobbi conducts support group meeting and retreats for birth/first families, provides support and education to adoptive families as well as adopted persons who are in the search process. Duties also include mediating in open adoptions when needed and providing counseling for those parents who are facing termination of their parental rights by the courts. She is a strong advocate for birth/first families and child-centered adoptions.

Carol Schaefer

Carol Schaefer’s memoir, The Other Mother, now considered a classic in adoption literature, was adapted as a television movie by NBC in 1995, and then acquired by the Lifetime Channel. She has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, and many local television and radio programs around the United States and in Canada. She has often been a keynote speaker, given numerous workshops at adoption conferences and facilitated support groups since 1991. Searching …, her fifth book and the sequel to The Other Mother, was published in 2014.

Allison L. Treviño-Hartman, LCSW

Allison is a doctoral student with a Social Policy concentration at the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University. After completing her Masters in Social Work at Fordham, she was chosen as the 2015 recipient of the Rogler Fellowship. As an undergraduate, she received the Jane Addams Social Service Award from Loyola University. Allison is a practicing social worker at Montefiore Medical Center with research interests in strengthening young families through examining barriers such as age, economic obstacles and level of family support. Allison is also interested in the human rights of birth parents, particularly birth fathers

Lisa Venezia

Lisa Venezia is a television and theatre professional in New York City, and a first/birth mother in reunion for five years.  Committed to the ensurance of ethical practice for expectant parents, adoptive parents, adoptees, and first/birth parents, Lisa, (following the pioneer Lynn C. Franklin), became the second birth parent to contribute their personal experience and perspective to adoption by joining the Board of Directors at Spence-Chapin Services for Families and Children.  While serving on this board for over twelve years, Lisa became involved with the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and has used her theatre/television production background volunteering for events and fundraisers for the Institute since 2005.