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Thank you for supporting our work and invaluable initiatives. Your contribution will help The Donaldson Adoption Institute to continue these three core programs. To underwrite these programs, please contact Chief Executive, April Dinwoodie at 212.925.4089

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Openness in Adoption: What a Concept!

The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s (DAI) landmark report Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections, demonstrated that openness is increasingly the norm, with over 95% of adoption agencies offer some type of open adoption.  Encouraging more openness in adoption is a concept that makes sense to most people who learn about it; secrecy is never a healthy way to live and secrets have a tendency to increase the anxiety of all who are impacted by them. Openness is an opportunity for the extended family of adoption to honor all of these important connections and embrace them as a means of ensuring healthy identity for all family members.

Although openness is increasingly common, families report that they are often left without the resources and tools necessary to navigate these unique relationships. According to DAI’s public opinion research, more than 60% of respondents stated that receiving support with openness was the number one need after an adoption took place. To address this critical need, DAI launched an online curriculum  in 2016, which has been well received by parents and professionals. To further this initiative, DAI is committed to expanding training opportunities both online and in person to support families and the professionals that serve them in navigating openness in a way that strengthens kids and families. To that end, DAI is seeking support in being able to create additional educational tools and resources, such as:

  • Online training opportunities for professionals who serve foster and adoptive families.
  • Expanded training guides to help professionals educate and support families with openness.
  • Educational resources for families that address openness as it relates to intercountry and transracial adoption, search and reunion and other specific issues that may arise.

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Best Practices in Options Counselling

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) has long since worked to explore and better understand the experiences of all members of extended family of adoption. Through our work in areas impacting expectant and first/birth parents, we strive to provide a platform for the voices of those who have been marginalized within the wider adoption discourse, and further, to ensure services in this area are ethical, comprehensive, and provide access to the full range of options when an individual/couple is experiencing an unintended pregnancy. DAI has recently released our latest research in this area, which is a comprehensive study that explores the Options Counseling experiences of first/birth parents and the professionals who serve them. The findings of this work reveal the need for a more rigorous approach to counseling services in this area, including changes to relevant policies that guide adoption practice.

To that end, DAI is seeking support in being able to launch key projects that strive to empower expectant parents and ensure family building occurs in a strengths based, ethical manner. This includes:

  • Developing a best practice manual for options counseling services.
  • Addressing gaps in the policy framework to ensure a standardized approach to services.
  • The development of web based resources to expectant parents have opportunity to explore the full range of available options, including parenting resources and access to individuals who considered adoption but chose to parent.
  • Training seminars for prospective adoptive parents and professionals that address (among other areas) critical areas such as empathy building, dual roles, boundary setting and relationship building.

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Access to Original Birth Certificates: 20/20 Vision

When a child is adopted in America, his/her original birth certificate becomes sealed and an amended birth certificate is issued, which lists the adoptive parents as birth parents. Although research has since debunked the notion of secrecy in adoption, best practices promote transparency, and open adoption is today’s norm, an adopted person’s original birth certificate continues to be sealed and the majority of states continue to withhold this information from adopted people even when they become adults. Further, there is widespread public support for adopted persons being able to access their original birth certificate upon reaching adulthood, with 69% of respondents in DAI’s recent public opinion survey agreeing this is a basic right. Among other areas, access to an original birth certificate aids an adopted person in their identity development, allows them to confirm ethnicity, and further provides them with an avenue to receive critical and potentially lifesaving family medical history.

In order to address the gap in states that disallow adopted persons this fundamental right, DAI is seeking to create an advocacy campaign in order to organize existing reform efforts, develop reform groups where needed, create momentum, and ensure collaboration among members of the adoption community. As a non-partisan research institute with long standing relationships with key influencers and community members, DAI is well suited to lead this effort which will include:

  • The development of a comprehensive, interactive web based resource for reform groups to access critical information about advocacy work, organize advocates in their state, and connect with other advocates who are working on reform or have successfully enacted legislation.
  • Mentorship between advocacy leaders in states that have enacted legislation with those who are actively working on campaigns.
  • ·The eventual creation of an ancillary site that provides supports and resources to adopted persons who have accessed their original birth certificate but need guidance in navigating next steps.
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