From the Desk of April Dinwoodie

Welcome to The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s (DAI) Summer 2017 Newsletter. In this issue, we highlight our vital work towards the equality of all who are connected to the rich and complex experience of adoption such as our OBC 2020 initiative, Openness in Adoption online curriculum and advocacy with other child welfare organizations against discriminatory laws. While strides are always being made to develop policies and practices that truly speak to the well-being of children, adults, parents and families, there is still much work to be done. Issues that require our immediate attention and steadfast advocacy include unrestricted access to original birth certificates, citizenship for internationally adopted people and equal treatment of LGBTQ families.

We must always remember that freedom and equality are not privileges to be doled out to a select few. It is a right that each and every one of us deserves. Our shared humanity will always win against the elements that seek to divide us.

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


DAI’s Summer  2017 Newsletter: Message from Chief Executive April Dinwoodie from The Donaldson Adoption Institute on Vimeo.



  • As part of DAI’s OBC 2020 program, we have developed a brief survey that seeks to explore a variety of areas related to OBC access and advocacy. Our survey is designed to gain a better understanding of the core issues related to this topic including:
    • The state of OBC access laws throughout the U.S.
    • The knowledge of members of the adoption community and our allies surrounding their state laws.
    • The nature of advocacy campaigns that may or may not exist in states without access or in states with compromised laws.
    • The strengths of the current campaign as well as the obstacles that impact this critical work.

    DAI wants to ensure that we are collaborating with as many as possible in our efforts to fully develop the OBC 2020 program as well as to make certain that we have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of our fellow advocates. As we strive to support national momentum on this vital issue, the survey will serve as an important tool in addition to our other research in this area to guide our work. Take our survey and stay tuned for our report which will detail the results.


  • DAI announced our latest program, OBC 2020, this past May and work is well underway on this comprehensive program. The overarching goal of OBC 2020 is to support advocates working to gain unrestricted access to original birth certificates (OBC) for adopted people in their state. This project will be realized through a centralized online hub where advocates will be able to access tools and information that ideally will serve to bolster their steadfast efforts to secure for adopted people the human right to access their OBC. Our overarching vision is that all states will have an active and robust advocacy campaign that seeks unrestricted OBC access by 2020.The project will be guided by a Council of Advisors who have experience engaging in advocacy work surrounding this and other equality-based issues. DAI is seeking to partner with all members of the adoption community and our allies in creating a national movement to once and for all end the legacy of secrecy, stigma and shame that seal OBCs from adopted people in the majority of states. We believe that we can learn from advocates that have had diverse experiences across the country and to create space for leaders to share their challenges and successes.Stay tuned for our upcoming announcements which will include the results of our survey that seek to better understand the experience of advocates and the members of our Council of Advisors. We can’t do our work without your support so consider making a donation today to help us more formally develop this critical program.
    50 States. 1 Movement. Restore Adoptee Rights!
  • Openness in adoption is a common aspect of adoption today and research and best practices support the concept of maintaining family connections as a benefit to all members of the extended family of adoption — especially the adopted person. DAI continues to partner with Fostering Change for Children and NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services on programs designed to enhance education and understanding as it relates to openness in adoption for all types of adoptions including those from foster care.If you missed our Openness in Adoption curriculum, take the time now to download this comprehensive course that provides information and tools to help support families in understanding and embracing these new relationships in their lives and set them up for long-term success.



  • DAI continues to steadfastly advocate for adopted people to obtain unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. This July in New York, A05036-B/S04845-B passed out of the Assembly and Senate. The bill does not address the rights of adopted people to unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. The bill disregards research and best practices that support an adopted person’s unrestricted access to his or her OBC and instead creates a cumbersome system of outreach and approvals that are unnecessary, burdensome and costly to both the individual and the state. DAI was proud to join with leading child welfare organizations in appealing to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to veto this legislation which will not create equality for adopted people.We additionally supported efforts led by Adoptee Rights Law Center to urge Governor Cuomo to veto A05036-B/S04845-B. DAI stands with fellow advocates and the adoption community in urging clean legislation in New York. All people have a right to know their full truth.
  • A spate of laws continues to sweep the country that creates a series of roadblocks for individuals and couples in the LGBTQ community who wish to build their families through fostering and adoption. Most recently, the Governor of Texas signed a bill that allows child welfare agencies to broadly discriminate against a wide range of individuals and couples, including members of the LGBTQ community, on the basis of “religious objection.” DAI joined with our child welfare partner organizations to condemn this legislation which is harmful to children and families.In May, DAI collaborated with the Child Welfare League of America, North American Council on Adoptable Children, Voice for Adoption, National Center for Adoption and Permanency, Foster Club and RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association to write a position statement which affirms that LGBTQ parents are as well suited to raise children as their heterosexual counterparts and that LGBTQ youth and families deserve equal treatment under the law.Child welfare services must always be guided by the best interest of the child — not the competing political or personal convictions of adults. It is imperative that we all unite in opposition to laws, policies and practices that deny children the right to join a permanent, potentially qualified family and treat LGBTQ families unequally. We must celebrate diversity and all families must be treated equally and with respect if we want them to thrive.
  • Many internationally adopted people continue to face the risk of deportation as adults because citizenship was not acquired for them after their adoptions were finalized in the United States. The consequences of this have been grave. We mourn the loss of Phillip Clay who committed suicide this past May at the age of 42 after having been deported back to South Korea.

    Internationally adopted people desperately need our support and advocacy. The most recent victim of deportation is Adam Crapser whose experience we have written about elsewhere. Adam was adopted from South Korea as a toddler and faced years of trauma as a child in the United States. He was deported back to South Korea several months ago.Although the United States passed the Child Citizenship Act in 2000 and granted automatic citizenship to any child who was adopted by U.S. citizens, there was a critical caveat; the law only applies to adopted people who were under the age of 18 when it came into effect which leaves out innumerable internationally adopted people. It is critical now to rectify this severe injustice by ensuring no other adopted person is sent from the only country he or she has ever known as home and that internationally adopted people who have been rejected by the United States as adults have an avenue to return to the place where they were promised “a forever family” many years ago.

  • Read DAI’s Fourth of July blog post which urges the critical need for advocacy to ensure equality and the human rights of all people connected to adoption.


  • HRC’s All Children – All Families project provides a framework for child welfare agencies to achieve safety, permanency and well-being by improving their practice with LGBTQ youth and families. Resources include an online agency self-assessment tool, comprehensive staff training and free technical assistance.
  • In Spring 2016, Pact, An Adoption Alliance started to deliver “Adoption…It’s Complicated! Raising Awareness for Service Providers,” an educational program specifically for professionals working with expectant parents considering adoption, as well as birth parents. This program is being offered via a webinar led by Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander, LMFT, on Aug. 19th from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pact states that the training provides information on all available options including the option to parent.



        • In a Chronicle of Social Change article, DAI teams up with Voice for Adoption and the North American Council on Adoptable Children, to emphasize the need to ensure that child welfare policies focus on the best interest of children and not the personal convictions of professionals.




Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S
Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Founder/Owner of a Private Practice

What motivates your interest in working in foster care and adoption?
Starting in 1999, I have had the tremendous opportunity to work in child protective services as an investigator, public and private foster care, private, infant adoption, international adoption, kinship and step-parent adoption, and now as a licensed clinician specializing in post-adoption services. Naively, I entered the field filled with ego consisting of what I could bring, wisdom I could impart as an adoptee, and believing I could change an entire field. Years (and a multitude of rough learning curves later), it is the clients willing to share their deepest fears, sorrows, losses and hopes that have humbled me in profound ways. Work in this field long enough and you will encounter moments in adoption and foster care that will bring you to your knees, but what continually keeps me coming back is the courage and self-determination that each client possesses. There is a hope that with each individual or system that I have had the privilege to work alongside that something greater than ourselves was left behind.

If you could change one thing about the practice of adoption/people’s attitudes toward adoption, what would it be?
There is a seduction to view adoption and foster care in binary terms as either good or bad, but that fallacy trap is dangerous because nothing in life is so concrete. There is enough room for a multitude of feelings and perspectives that will evolve over time. The ability to sit within the tension of those emotional and conflictual intersections is what creates change and insight. For fellow triad members who enter this field, it is critically important that we remain self-aware and accountable to continually do our personal work so that we can robustly engage each system free of our known and unknown agendas so that our work is transparent, ethical and grounded — so when those intersections collide, we can stand interdependently of each situation to create solution.

How do post-adoption services fit into your work to improve the adoption and foster care system?
Post-adoption (a passion of mine) is an extension of the act of adoption and is equally important within the entire schema of adoption and foster care. It is neither pre or post, but a fluid and ever-changing spectrum of experiences throughout the lifespan and intergenerationally. It is a specialized application that combines lived experience, research, best practice considerations, clinical acumen, policy and flexibility of adaptation to each situation.

In your opinion, why are post-adoption services important to building strong families?
Building stronger families also means long-term investment and commitment within in our shared community to provide services throughout the life of a client that extends beyond placement. There is an ethical and moral obligation for those involved within this field to ensure that longitudinal services for all triad members are accessible, reputable and competent. Among professionals — particularly adopted people and birth parents — who have worked hard to legitimately gain a foothold in this field, there is a need to share our knowledge, advocate and educate the next generation — as much as there is a need to thank those who came before us and carve out a place at the table. And I am thankful for every person and opportunity that has led me to this place today and tomorrow.