Press Release

Donaldson Adoption Institute Collaborates with University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work to Conduct Options Counseling Study

Research Aims to Explore the Pre Adoption Experiences of Birth Parents


April Dinwoodie (212) 925-4089

New York, NY, September 23rd, 2015 – The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) announced today a collaboration with a research team from the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work on a new 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.

Previous research conducted by DAI demonstrates a lack of consistency in the area of Options Counseling practices. It is paramount that gaps in service delivery are identified and ethical standards implemented in order to safeguard the rights of expectant parents who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy.

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 birth parents and expectant parents considering adoption. The goal of the 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 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.

“It is critically important to gain a better understanding of birth parent experiences if we are to engage in a transformational approach versus a transactional approach in adoption,” said April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of DAI. “We have every hope that this landmark study will expand the conversation in this area of practice and ultimately lead to the creation of uniform best practices that ensure the rights and wellbeing of this sometimes vulnerable population.” 

About The Donaldson Adoption Institute

Since 1996, The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) has worked to improve the lives of children and families across our country and around the world through research, education and advocacy that have led to better laws, policies and practices. We engage all members of the adoption and foster care adoption communities, including the professionals that serve them.  As we enter into our twentieth year, DAI is committed to reframing the conversations and changing perceptions, encouraging authentic relationships, building coalitions, and being a practical resource in order to ensure the strength of all families.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System.  The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at