About The Institute

Our research, education and advocacy work leads to better perceptions, policies and practices that strengthen all families.

Learn more about who we are, what we stand for, and what we’re working towards.

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) is an independent and objective adoption research, education and advocacy organization focused on the needs of first/birth parents, adopted people, adoptive parents, extended families of all and the professionals that serve them.

Our research, education and advocacy has led to better perceptions, policies and practices.  Even after decades of work from DAI and others, our current system still too often treats adoption as a one-time transaction. There is still more work to be done. In response, DAI has launched Let’s Adopt Reform in order to:

  • Reframe the conversation by using our 20 years of existing research, new public opinion research and the voices of the adoption community to ignite a new national dialogue about adoption in the 21st century.
  • Inspire solidarity within the adoption community because we know we are more powerful together.  Our different experiences make us a rich tapestry and finding the connecting points where we can agree and come together will be critical as we move forward.  Together we can accelerate positive change.
  • Advocate for change by outlining the critical policy and practice elements in one comprehensive report with research and powerful narratives serving as the reasons for action.
  • The Adoption Experience

    DAI believes in promoting healthy identity in adopted people, safeguarding the rights of parents (expectant, first/birth and adoptive) and educating policy makers, practitioners and professionals to strengthen families.

  • Adoption Support Service

    DAI works to raise awareness of and increase access to quality pre- and post- adoption education and training to ensure the well being of individuals and families.

  • Foster Care Adoption

    DAI's targeted research and advocacy helps to remove barriers to adoption for the most vulnerable children and families.

  • The Modern Family

    DAI encourages the acceptance of diverse families and advocates for fair and just practices for everyone in the extended family of adoption.


The Adoption Institute was established in 1996 by the Board of Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children (now Spence-Chapin), which identified the need for an independent and objective adoption research and policy organization that addressed the needs of all those touched by adoption – first/birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents.

In 1997, the Institute was named in honor of Evan B. Donaldson, a member of the Spence-Chapin Board of Directors for nearly 20 years, serving as president from 1986 until her death in 1994. Evan worked tirelessly to make the Institute a reality, in addition to devoting herself to ensuring that infants and children were placed in permanent, loving families.

To reflect the commitment and generosity of the entire Donaldson family, we became the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) in 2012. Bill, his wife Jane, and children, Kim and Matthew, have dedicated their time and talents to DAI through service on the Board of Directors and leadership for fundraising events.

To drive DAI’s strategic direction and growth, April Dinwoodie was appointed to the newly created position of Chief Executive in October 2013.

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