Donaldson Adoption Institute Has Closed Down

The Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national adoption research organization based in New York City, has closed its doors after more than 20 years.

The institute has “decided to wind down its operations,” said Donaldson CEO April Dinwoodie, in a personal statement posted online. “Raising the funds to sustain and grow our organization was no longer possible, and the board of directors made the very difficult decision to close.”

A full statement on the closure and the legacy of the organization is posted on its website.

Donaldson was formed in 1996 to serve as a national research, education and advocacy organization focused on issues of domestic adoption. It was named for Evan Burger Donaldson, president of the board of Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children in New York, who passed away in 1994.

Since its inception it has produced surveys, research and reports on a range of adoption issues including education, mental health, race and post-adoption support. In 2016, the institute launched the Let’s Adopt Reform initiative, which aimed to ignite a new conversation about adoption, foster care and the modern family.

According to the organization, its most downloaded product ever is a 2008 report on the role of race and law in adoptions from foster care.

Dinwoodie took over Donaldson in 2014 after the organization parted ways, amicably but in disagreement, with former CEO Adam Pertman, who had led the organization for 12 years. Pertman told The Chronicle at the time he “absolutely could have stayed,” but told colleagues in a 2014 e-mail that “in a nutshell, DAI and I now have very different visions for the organization’s future, and so I have decided it’s time to move on.”

Dinwoodie, a Donaldson board member at the time and former communications executive at JetBlue, said she was brought in to help the organization’s development.

“We have defined some key areas we’re focusing on for the future,” Dinwoodie said, in an interview with The Chronicle in 2014. The moves “set us on a path for growth, which is why I was brought in.”

In 2009, facing the same financial misery as the rest of the country in the wake of the Great Recession, Donaldson forged a strategic partnership with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) to share staff and resources.

The institute’s revenues topped $1 million for the first time in 2014, up from about $800,000 in 2009. But expenses have increased at an even greater pace. Donaldson ended 2015 with $1.05 million in assets; that had dwindled to $554,000 by 2016 to cover a $500,000 gap between revenue and expenses.

Dinwoodie said in her personal statement that she will continue her own podcast on adoption, Born in June Raised in April.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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1 Comment

  1. I am very sorry to see that the DAI is closing down and I am also disturbed at how the Board, including April Dinwiddie, stupidly pushed Adam Pertman out of this position. He is the one who brought DAI into the national spotlight after a rather lackluster first decade of existence. It’s a shame that those who are put in leadership positions in child welfare continue to be those who not only lack core leadership skills but more importantly lack the qualifications, credentials, and expertise to do the work and understand the work and as a result mistakenly estimate this field of practice as a Polly Anna one when, in truth, it’s one that is characterized by life long decisions with the potential to take the very lives of children, destroying families and countless others in the process. At risk children and vulnerable families continue to experience untoward and negative outcomes when non-profit boards and public CW systems fail to understand the complexity of the work and the skills required for the work but then “settle” and sometimes even champion the installation of folks into leadership positions who are wholly unqualified for them, such as Dinwiddie in my opinion. DAI brought in Dinwiddie, who by her own highly touted account, was the leader needed to “set the path for growth” but who, in less than 2 years, dwindled the organization’s budget by over 100%, notwithstanding their partnership with the powerful CWLA, forcing DAI out of business. It’s a damn shame that these sorts of outcomes continue to haunt us because of the stupidity of people who know not what they do.

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