From the Desk of April Dinwoodie

Welcome to The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s Fall 2016 Newsletter. As we head into the holiday season especially during National Adoption Month, it’s more important than ever to be educated about the lifelong journey of adoption. In this issue, we highlight our upcoming “Openness in Adoption: What a Concept!” online curriculum and options counseling report, and our pathway to reform based on insights from our Let’s Adopt Reform National Tour. 

Please click the video below for a message from Chief Executive April Dinwoodie.

DAI’s Fall 2016 Newsletter: Message from Chief Executive April Dinwoodie from Donaldson Adoption Institute on Vimeo.


We welcome your feedback on the Fall Newsletter at



  • In September, The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) partnered with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and Fostering Change for Children to host an Open Adoption Learning Session for family court judges, attorneys and court clerks in the Bronx and Staten Island. During the session, DAI presented research pertaining to open adoption and discussed opportunities to create extended relationships via open adoption. This work is part of a bigger ongoing effort from ACS to encourage more openness and extended family connections in adoptions from foster care.  
  • Join DAI Chief Executive and transracially adopted person April Dinwoodie as she discusses how a modern understanding of adoption, more education and collective action can strengthen all families at The City Club of Cleveland on Nov. 11. April’s presentation will outline DAI’s path to much-needed reform based on insights from our Let’s Adopt Reform Thanks to our friends at Adoption Network Cleveland for recommending us to lead this vital conversation.
  • DAI is excited to announce “Openness in Adoption: What a Concept!” This curriculum and online educational tool is intended for parents who are experiencing open adoption, parents who are considering open adoption as well as professionals who provide services in this area. With previous research as the foundation, DAI sought to develop this curriculum as a way to support families who may be engaged in open adoption or interested in open adoption but challenged to make sense of new extended family connections and engaging with family members in a way that is healthy for all – most especially the child.

    Click here to download our openness curriculum. It will be available without charge through National Adoption Awareness Month (November).

  • In collaboration with Dr. Elissa Madden of Baylor University and Dr. Scott Ryan of the University of Texas, Arlington, DAI is excited to release our new research study of options counseling experiences this November. This large scale study surveyed birth parents as well as professionals who provide adoption services and additionally engaged in detailed interviews with some study participants to gain greater insight into experiences. The overarching purpose of the study is to explore the decision-making experiences of women and men who relinquished their parental rights as well as the context and effectiveness of counseling practices offered to expectant parents. 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. Recommendations for both policy and practice will be included.



  • Advocates Continue to Rally for Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2016
    News coverage continues documenting the plight of many adopted people who were born internationally and adopted by U.S. citizens as infants and children, yet never were naturalized as U.S. citizens. The impact of this is devastating as it limits employment opportunities, the ability to receive driver’s licenses or passports, as well as denial of benefits. DAI supports the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2016 and we urge our followers to contact their legislator and ask for their support.
  • Success in Missouri for Adopted Person’s Access to Original Birth Certificate
    At the close of summer, adopted people in Missouri finally enjoyed a moment their non-adopted peers are given as a basic right – access to their original birth certificates. The law initially opened to adopted people born before January 1, 1941. However, further strides will be made on January 2, 2018 when adopted people 18 years of age and older born after 1941 will also be able to obtain a copy of their actual birth certificate. Some restrictions may apply. DAI congratulates advocates in Missouri for their hard work on this effort.



  • November is National Adoption Month! This year’s focus, “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family” encourages people to #JustAskUs and talk with teens and older youth about family and adoption. Learn more about National Adoption Month 2016 by visiting
  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway recently released three updated fact sheets on child maltreatment, fatalities due to child abuse and neglect, and foster care. These fact sheets are based on 2014 data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).The Child Welfare Information Gateway recently released three updated fact sheets on child maltreatment, fatalities due to child abuse and neglect, and foster care. These fact sheets are based on 2014 data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).
  • On behalf of China Children’s International (CCI), two adopted people from China (Jenna Cook from the film “Somewhere Between” and CCI Co-Founder/President Laney Allison) announced a Birth Parent Search Manual. The free guide will provide adopted people from China invaluable information and insight about navigating the process of searching for their birth parents. The first edition has an anticipated release date of Dec. 31, 2016.



    • According to The New York Times, the case of Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, a foster father who awaits trial on charges of sexually abusing five of his adopted sons, shows that long-distance placement makes it more difficult for effective oversight of child welfare agencies. “Gonzales-Mugaburu’s arrest prompted questions about why it took so long for the alleged abuse to be revealed. But it also drew attention to the practice of sending foster children far from the communities they knew — in this case, nearly 3,000 miles — to find a home.”
    • As more children enter our foster system, Jim Kenny (retired psychologist with over 50 years of clinical experience) says that we must implement more efficient recruiting and retaining strategies of foster families. “To find and retain the families we most need, we must do better than simply offer a reimbursement for child care expenses. We must increase compensation.”


    • In a Cosmopolitan article, a couple addresses the stigma behind intrusive questions they receive as same-sex parents. “Instead of obsessing over the details of how same-sex couples became parents, ask yourself: Do I really need to know? You probably don’t.”


    • In an Adoption Today article, DAI Chief Executive April Dinwoodie shares her best practices for initiating conversations about race, class and culture in transracial/transcultural families: “Make sure you are listening to yourself – hearing what makes you most uncomfortable down deep. When you challenge yourself and your own identity surrounding race, class and culture, it is likely you will tune into so much more than you ever imagined. This is critical as you parent transracially through adoption.
    • Korean adoptee Adam Crapser, who was adopted at age 8 by an American couple, is being deported back to South Korea: “Crapser is one of an estimated 35,000 intercountry adoptees who find themselves in international limbo, sometimes years after their adoptions, because their adoptive parents did not seek U.S. citizenship or green cards for them, advocates say.” 
    • During the Sept. 29th airing of Al Jazeera’s live daily show, “The Stream,” several adopted people discussed their experience in the international adoption system and definition of “home.” Guests included Hollee McGinnis, author of DAI’s “Beyond Culture Camp” report and founder of Also-Known-As, Inc., Heran Tadesse, Ethiopian adoptee to the Netherlands, Kasper Eriksen, Korean adoptee to Denmark, and Elizabeth Bartholet, director of the child advocacy program at Harvard Law School.
    • An adoptive mother shares her respect and privacy for the transracial, domestic and open adoption narratives of her three children. “My children may be mine, but their stories aren’t mine. Yes, their stories are interwoven with mine, but if I choose to hand out that precious story for the world’s consumption — as so many parents-by-adoption do — well, isn’t that a kind of theft?”


MN ADOPT, Saint Paul, MN

What motivates your interest in working in foster care and adoption?

The MN ADOPT organization was founded in 1980 by a group of adoptive and foster parents. The founding mission was focused on advocating for the rights of every child to ensure they find a permanent and nurturing home – this mission still holds true today! Over the years, MN ADOPT has expanded its programming to support the adoption and foster care community regardless of where people are on their journey. Our team is composed of professionals who have dedicated their careers to this work and are deeply committed to supporting those touched by adoption.

How do post-adoption services fit into your work to improve the adoption and foster care system?

Post-adoption services are a major component to our organization’s programming and is an area that we are passionate about and excel at providing. The supports available through the HELP and Training programs are major contributors to our state’s ability to provide responsive, robust and easily accessible post-adoption support. These programs work closely together to provide well-rounded, innovative, adoption-informed services that are applicable to families and individuals across their lifespan.

We are longtime advocates in identifying barriers to adoption and family stability. Through our collaborations with many organizations, both locally and nationally, MN ADOPT attempts to shed light on the unique needs experienced within this community and advocate for needed systemic change. MN ADOPT was honored to be a 2015 recipient of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Angels in Adoption award. While in Washington, D.C. to receive the award, MN ADOPT was invited to meet with leaders at the U.S. Department of State to share information on our programming and discuss post-adoption needs.

Does your staff have a personal connection to adoption or foster care? If so, how has your staff’s personal experiences inspired or influenced their work?

Many of our team are personally connected to adoption and foster care and have chosen to focus their career on this imperative work. In addition, the MN ADOPT staff brings extensive working histories across various adoption and foster care organizations and programs to their current roles. Having a team that has myriad experiences, both personally and professionally, aids in our immense repertoire and ability to approach programming in a well-rounded, adoption/early trauma/attachment/identity informed way.