From the Desk of April Dinwoodie

Welcome to The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s (DAI) Summer 2016 Newsletter. In this issue, we are highlighting our recent SlideShare, “Adoption in America Today: The Good, the Bad, and a Path to Reform.” This digital centerpiece was crafted as part of DAI’s Let’s Adopt Reform initiative. We think it is time to look at things differently related to adoption and foster care adoption. Only then, can we truly reform it. We’ve reached many milestones on the path to reform, but there’s still a long way to go. We must do more research, educate more people, and advocate for more policy changes in order to strengthen all families. Strong families and strong communities build a better world for all of us.

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

We welcome your feedback on the Summer Newsletter at


When the adoption process is ethical, informed, and we recognize the life-long impact on all involved, it can be wonderful, with extended families formed by adoption representing models for a truly evolved definition of family. Too often, adoptions are seen as one-time transactions and fraught with challenges that negatively impact adopted people, birth families, and adoptive families. These challenges go well beyond the individual and can impact our wider world.


The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (HR5456/S3065) passed the House recently and is now pending action in the Senate. This federal bipartisan bill would better align federal child welfare funding with the critical goals of supporting family stability and preventing unnecessary foster care and institutional placements. DAI submitted comments to both the House and Senate in support of the bill while also offering recommendations for strengthening its measures.


In Trauma Informed Care for Children in the Child Welfare System: An Initial Evaluation of a Trauma-Informed Parenting Workshop (Child Maltreatment, May 2016, 21(2), 147-155), Sullivan et al. conducts an initial evaluation of a parent workshop for resource parents that incorporates a trauma-informed perspective. Among other findings, kinship and non-kinship caregivers reported increased knowledge as well as increased self-efficacy in parenting a traumatized child. Directions for future research are discussed.

In Residential Racial Diversity: Are Transracial Adoptive Families More Like Multiracial or White Families (Social Science Quarterly, DOI: 10.1111/ssqu. 12242), Kreider and Raleigh explore whether the racial socialization experiences of transracially adopted youth vary from the experiences of biological children in white monoracial families and biological children in mixed-race families. Results demonstrate that the racial socialization of transracially adopted youth is most similar to that of biological children in same-race families.


In May, DAI partnered with the NYC Administration for Children’s Services and Fostering Change for Children to launch a program to train professionals about how the core concepts of openness in adoption are pertinent to child welfare adoptions. The main focus of the trainings involves encouraging professionals to think critically about how relationships between biological and foster/adoptive parents can serve the well-being of the child in many ways throughout their lifetime.


In his piece, How I Learned To Embrace Both Identities as an LGBTQI And Adoptive Parent, LGBTQI equality advocate and Let’s Adopt Reform panelist Gabriel Blau reflects on the importance of Pride month in the aftermath of the horrific Orlando tragedy and how he identifies as both an LGBTQI and adoptive parent: “When the time came, we did everything we could to educate ourselves about what it meant to become a family, what it meant to be gay men becoming parents, and what it meant to adopt.”


It is hard to imagine issues of adoption and foster care adoption not being human rights issues. After all, for so many of us, family IS the center point of our human existence and when the safety and strength of family is compromised and laws, policies, and practices do not operate with equity, human rights are indeed compromised. Being denied access to original birth certificates and vital information, “re-homing” children via unregulated custody transfers, and lack of citizenship for internationally adopted people are all examples of human rights violations and we need to do more to stop them.


Early in June, the Bureau of Indian Affairs published an updated final rule in the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The purpose of the final rule is to clarify the law’s requirements and ensure active efforts to maintain family and community, among other areas.

A young adopted person from China is already learning the importance of engaging in advocacy. When she learned her dream of running for President one day would be stymied by a Constitutional clause that disallows persons who are not “natural born” citizens to run for President, she took action. Alena Mulhern, born in China and placed for adoption at 10 months of age, is a U.S. citizen and had been raised as such since infancy. Her uncle, a Massachusetts lawmaker, is helping her in her advocacy by seeking a resolution that would broaden the parameters for adopted persons to be able to run for the highest office.

Advocates in NY were pleased when a discriminatory version of a bill that initially sought to allow access to original birth certificates failed to pass the House this legislative session. Although the original bill had allowed adopted persons to access their original birth certificate without restrictions, amendments had been added that created a complicated system of requiring permissions in order for adopted persons to access their vital information. DAI supports advocates in their efforts to ensure that legislation in New York speaks to the human rights of adopted persons to access their original birth certificate, just like their non-adopted peers.


In A Critical Analysis of Foster Youth Advisory Boards in the United States (Child & Youth Care Forum, February 2016, 45(1), 107-121), Forenza and Happonen critically analyze components of foster youth advisory boards, including their location, implementation process, and access. Implications for policy, practice, and further research are discussed.


In the wake of the Congressional action on the Adoptee Citizenship Act, a Seattle Globalist article on international adoption immigration laws encourages adopted people to confirm their citizenship status with their parents and check their passport entry stamps: “No international adoption is truly complete until parents have secured citizenship for their child.”


The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2016 (HR5454) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) on June 10. The bill grants all international adopted people automatic U.S. citizenship and amends the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which automatically grants U.S. citizenship to children adopted by U.S. citizens, except for adopted people who were already over the age of 18 when the law passed in 2000.

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Right now, adoption laws, policies, and practices differ widely from state to state and have not kept up with the ever-evolving family. The unintended consequences of this lack of uniformity, coupled with misinformation can lead to fraud, coercion, undue stress on families, and ultimately, leave children vulnerable.


At the close of this legislative session, Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced the National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act. Among other areas, the bill would include the development of an evidence-based National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study assessment standard and demonstration program as well as a national registry system to assist in the matching of children with prospective areas. DAI offered support for this legislation, which is a step towards ensuring rigorous and uniform standards in the home study process. Many other child welfare organizations also issued their approval of this effort.


In Agency Related Barriers Experienced by Families Seeking to Adopt from Foster Care (Adoption Quarterly, January, 2016), Chanmugam et al. analyzes agency-based factors that impede prospective adoptive parents who are seeking to adopt from foster care. This national, longitudinal study identified several key areas that served as obstacles, including agency communication and responsiveness as well as interjurisdictional issues. The study offers recommendations for policy and practice.


Tools that help create more uniformity within the practice of adoption and foster care are greatly needed. The Child Welfare Information Gateway now includes a CapLEARN webinar library with training courses on continuous quality improvement, health care, preventing sex trafficking, and child welfare adoption leadership. View the courses here.


Director of the California Department of Social Services, Will Lightbourne is leading a new initiative on supportive services to families, including kinship care for family preservation: “These changes set the stage for a reinvigorated effort: to re-examine the best ideas for reform in child welfare and creatively envision a new path forward. This effort brings new urgency, as well as increased accountability and examination from the press and the public.”


The unique experiences of members of the adoption and foster care adoption communities are rarely considered in the systems they interact with on a regular basis. Engaging and educating professionals in adjacent systems like schools and hospitals is necessary to ensure the unique experiences of the adoption and foster care adoption communities are being considered and everyone is given an equal opportunity to thrive.


In June, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services issued guidelines to clarify how states and schools must implement provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act which relate to foster youth. The Every Student Succeeds Act is the nation’s primary education law which replaced No Child Left Behind late last year.

Elements of the new law that pertain to foster care include reporting requirements, maintaining consistency for youth in their home district and streamlining enrollment procedures. It is imperative the systems work together to best address the needs of the adoption and foster care communities.


In Teachers’ Representations on Adoptive Families and Educational Practices: New Challenges in Teachers’ Preparation (Adoption Quarterly, June 2016), Novara et al. explores how teachers in Italy represent the adoptive family in their work and interactions with students. Results indicate ambivalent representations as teachers address issues related to adoption.


Led by Catherine Hamilton of the University of Florida and Eileen Dehouske of Santa Fe College in New Mexico, a 2016 North American Council on Adoptable Children conference interactive workshop, Navigating Health Care: How to Plan and Advocate for Adoption-Competent Primary Medical Care, will provide a “framework for adoptive families to use when navigating the medical healthcare systems.” Topics include “how to screen primary healthcare professionals for adoption competence, the significance of the health record, communicating with the medical team, and special considerations for the hospitalized adopted child.”


Several research studies reveal that LGBT people are “overrepresented in U.S. prisons and jails”: “Many LGBT parents, regardless of whether they have been incarcerated, lack legal ties to the children they are raising because of decades of discrimination and the inability to marry or to obtain a second-parent adoption.”


While most Americans place adoption reform high on the list of social issues that need to change, they place it low on the list of issues about which they feel informed. The majority of Americans, including members of the adoption community, scored below average on a basic “adoption IQ” test and 61% of Americans admit not knowing much about adoption and how it works so we have our work cut out for us.


DAI seeks opportunities to educate and reframe conversations with the public in order to ensure realistic perceptions of the adoption experience and rally support for needed changes in policies and practices. In a June blog post, DAI weighed in on the search and reunion stories that the media capitalizes on in many ways. Poignant adoption search and reunion stories are common in today’s news feeds, yet they don’t offer the full picture of what this experience is truly like.

They also often fail to acknowledge the inhumane reality that many adopted people are withheld information about their true identity due to antiquated laws that keep vital records sealed. It is critical that we expand the conversation about the realities of search and reunion and engage the public in advocating for laws that allow adopted people full access to information about themselves and their origins.


In Recognizing Microaggressions: A Framework for Helping Grandfamilies (GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy, 2016, 3(1)), Yancura et al. reviews a framework of microagression theory and identifies ways that grandfamilies are impacted as a potentially socially marginalized group. The article reviews ways in which professionals working with grandfamilies can make use of this knowledge to assist families in overcoming obstacles.


During a July 12, 2016 presentation at Seton Hall University School of Law, DAI discussed how it is critical that professionals are provided with research and tools to ensure ethical practices that ultimately speak to ensuring the best interest of a child. We’re looking forward to bringing that important message to professionals who may provide services to individuals connected to adoption.

Conferences are a critical element to ensure professionals, parents, and members of the community continue to learn. Don’t miss the 2016 North American Council on Adoptable Children conference on August 4-6 in Nashville, Tennessee. Topics include older child adoption, parenting children with special needs, preparing for adoption, race, culture, and diversity in adoption, recruitment and pre-adoption services, and search and open adoption.


Los Angeles launched a federally-funded program to educate foster families on LGBT children: “[Lana] Freeman [mother of an LGBT child] says that lack of knowledge about LGBT issues scares some foster parents away from accepting these kids. That’s why she calls the effort in LA to teach parents these issues ‘groundbreaking.'”


CoriMcMillan_HeadshotCori McMillan, Member of the Adoptee Rights Campaign

Years of Service: 1

Educational Background: B.S. in Psychology and Social Work; M.S. in Early Childhood Education

Tell us a little about your own adoption journey: I was adopted in 1975 from Korea to a family in Washington State.  I lived in central Illinois most of my childhood and moved to Chicago as an adult. Moving to Chicago was the turning point in my adoption journey as it is such a large and diverse city. I met other Korean adoptees who were also interested in forming a group and met regularly.

I felt like I had found my own community for the first time. Although we grew up in different parts of the country, we had similar identity questions and curiosity about Korea and other adoptees.

How did you become involved in advocacy work? I have always been involved in advocacy – as a social worker, teacher for children who are at risk or have special needs, and also as a volunteer and board member of the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago. I learned about the Korean American community and organizing from KRCC.

It seemed like most of the advocacy and organizing work for adult adoptees occurred in Korea. So I engaged in some adoptee advocacy in the States but concentrated on supporting other groups’ work abroad.

How did you become aware of the deportation of international adopted people? I worked with a group of other adoptees and allies to support an intercountry adoptee without citizenship who had been going through immigration hearings. It was shocking that adoptees could be deported from the U.S.!

Through that work, we discovered this was not an isolated incident – it has occurred to many other intercountry adoptees from Korea and several other countries. Deporting or not giving citizenship to adoptees is anti-adoption, no matter what age the adoptee eventually becomes.

How did you become involved in the Adoptee Rights Campaign? The Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC) emerged from our work around the adoptee mentioned above. We have a working committee of adoptees and allies from coast-to-coast who are committed to supporting the rights of international adoptees that are really basic human rights.

Some of our campaigns began with years of relentless work from other international adoptees. So we are building upon that foundation and building even greater power and voice to our community. We are fortunate to have a NAKASEC (National Korean American Service and Education Consortium) support the Adoptee Rights Campaign as one of their own campaigns.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2001 was intended to give automatic citizenship to all intercountry adoptees. Unfortunately, there was an age gap that left a loophole for adoptees born before 1983. The Adoptee Citizenship Act closes that gap to ensure that all intercountry adoptees are afforded the same rights as their other family members and are not left at risk of critical rights.

Besides the Adoptee Citizenship Act, what are some other ways to protect the human rights of adopted people? Adoptees should be provided with as much of their history and access to culture as possible. This includes access to their birth records and health history. Many adoptees do not know their accurate birth date, given name, health data, or family history. Some of this information is simply unknown but frequently it is withheld due to privacy reasons. Knowing those basic pieces of your life are civil and human rights all people should have.

Adoptees should also have safe, healthy, and culturally-competent family placements. Pre-adoption education and screening should be held to a higher bar. Additionally, a wide range of post-adoption services should be adequately funded and provided for both the adoptive parents and adoptive child. In-person social worker follow-up with families should be required (not optional depending on country of birth) to ensure the placement is safe and healthy.

What other thoughts would you like to share with us about your advocacy work? We need EVERYONE’s support to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act! The House recently introduced a companion bill, which is exciting news! But it is going to take a huge bipartisan effort to gain enough momentum for legislators to actively champion this critical bill. Please contact your senators and representatives to let them know you support the Adoptee Citizenship Act. You can find more information at



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