The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) held a panel discussion that focused on reforming the United States adoption system at the Merchant’s Exchange Club in San Francisco on Mar. 4.
Nathan Ross, Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao, Leslie Pate MacKinnon, Dr. Christopher Harris, and Dr. Amanda Baden were the five panelists. They all had experience with adoption- as an adoptive parent, an adoptee, or a first/birth mother. April Dinwoodie, CEO of the DAI led the panel.
Over the course of three hours, Dinwoodie guided the conversation, moving from broad, general topics like what national adoption standards should be set in place to smaller, to more specific topics such as the ways people can meet their birth families then taking questions at the end. Questions revolved around whether first/birth mothers who have given a child for adoption end up wanting to adopt later on in life, which MacKinnon, a first/birth mother answered.
The panel called for a collective coming together of the adoption community, improved and increased training and output for and of professionals, longer term involvement of adoption agencies, changing legislation and funding being used more effectively.
Funding for the adoption services and foster care is not the only part about the adoption system that needs reform, the panel said. Creating an empathetic national standard for the quality and care in the United States Adoption Agency is also something Dinwoodie wanted to look at.
“Money has played way too huge a role,” Pavao, an adoptee, said. “Kids know. Kids will say ‘how much did I cost?’”
Ross, a Youth Programs Supervisor at the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association, was adopted. He would like to see a national standard set in place because it would make permanency in a family faster.
Ross and Harris, an adoptive parent believe until the legislation puts the welfare of the child first and it is at the center of legislation, progress will be limited.
“Parents don’t feel equipped,” Ross said. There’s a “lack of community support.”
Changing how adoptive children are portrayed in the media would also help bring participation and support from families and their communities that would normally shy away from adopting a child, Baden believes.
“People tend to consider that children that have been through foster care have been traumatized,” Baden, an adopted person and adoptive parent said. “There’s not enough success stories.”
Adoption rates are lower because there is a lack of community support Harris says. Dinwoodie also believes that a lack of solidarity within the adoption community needs to be fixed.
“We’ve got to find a way to come together,” Dinwoodie said.
2015 Mills alum Alia Hauwert was adopted from Peru and attended the talk. She believes that there needs to be more coverage of these issues and more adoptees need to tell their stories.
“There is still a lack of voice for Latin American and International adoptees,” Hauwert said. “It needs to be addressed in literature and in public forums.”
Another adoptee who attended the forum, Zoë Klein, believes that there is a long ways to go, and is not sure if the DAI is able to follow through with their call for reform.
“This organization is called the Donaldson Adoption Institute. I’m curious who they’re working with,” Klein said. The graphics “are not representative, although it’s helpful and a good start.”