Adoption. To most people, the thought of it drums up happy stories of families bringing a new person into their life for them to love forever and ever. Or it’s the sensational stories that are shared by the media, including recently when Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’s adoption story went viral because of the insensitivity shown to her by a national reporter refusing to distinguish her adoptive parents as her parents. Her kinship adoption experience was played out online as a debate on what is real and what isn’t. As the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) exposed in a blog that also went viral on social media, how do any of us have the right to comment on how Simone chooses to reference her own family connections?
Importantly, both of the writers of that insightful blog on Simone Biles’s adoption story are adoptees. One of whom is April Dinwoodie, who will be the City Club presenter on Friday, November 11, 2016. April is a prominent, national thought leader on adoption-related topics and serves as the Chief Executive of DAI in New York City. Through sound research, DAI has elevated a discussion on improving adoption practices, policies and laws to the national stage.
Thoughtful Adoption Advocacy Work Right Here in Cleveland
In September 1988, Betsie Norris, a 26-year-old adoptee, founded the nonprofit Adoption Network Cleveland. The idea for the organization was simple but uncommon at the time: Adoption is a lifelong journey, not a one-time legal event, and everyone with a connection should feel open to come together and talk and learn from each other in a cooperative spirit. Betsie quickly became a trail blazer nationally with the idea of giving voice to everyone – the adoptee, birthparents, and adoptive parents – and picking up where the adoption agencies leave off. She started in-person support and discussion meetings so everyone could be in one safe space together to share feelings that had often been tucked deep inside. Opening remarks of those meetings touched on why we are each in the room: Recognizing that a unified voice is a strong voice, we advocate for truth and honesty on behalf of adoptees who wonder why they were placed; for birth families, who have never forgotten the child; for adoptive and foster families, who deserve to have their questions addressed honestly.
By having these open conversations in our community, by bringing in not just those directly impacted but our friends and neighbors, we will all have a common language to speak with and a common understanding of adoption and foster care. Then, hopefully, there will no longer be misunderstandings of who is part of someone's family and their adoption journey is not judged or minimized.
Because the philosophy of Adoption Network Cleveland is aligned with the work of the DAI, we are excited to help bring April Dinwoodie, to address the full picture of adoption and DAI’s recent research outlining what is working in adoption, what is not, and the path to reform to the City Club forum.
Everyone with a connection to adoption and/or anyone who cares about the needs of the 560 children and youth in Cuyahoga County’s child welfare system available for adoption should come together to look at the joys and the concerns of adoption in our community and our nation by learning from April’s engaging City Club presentation – Adoption in America Today: The Good, The Bad, and a Path to Reform. Adoption Network Cleveland is excited to be a Community Partner of such an important event.
By having these open conversations in our community, by bringing in not just those directly impacted but our friends and neighbors, we will all have a common language to speak with, a common understanding of adoption and foster care and there will, hopefully, be a day when misunderstandings of someone’s own interpersonal family life and adoption journey are not judged or minimized.
More on the Leaders of Adoption Network Cleveland and Donaldson Adoption Institute
Betsie is an adoptee who has spent her professional career helping others – first as a Child Psychiatric Nurse and then leading Adoption Network Cleveland, which has been recognized with multiple national, local and state awards. Through Betsie’s continued leadership, Adoption Network Cleveland is dedicated to connecting and empowering individuals, organizations and communities impacted by adoption and foster care, and providing a source of healing for those in need. For more information on Betsie’s advocacy, check out the documentary film: An Ohio Adoptee ROARed: The Betsie Norris Story.
April is a transracial adoptee and through her leadership with DAI, the “Let’s Adopt Reform” initiative aims to strengthen all families by igniting a national conversation about adoption and foster care adoption in the 21st century and it brings this conversation to the people, in town hall settings around the country. April also co-founded Fostering Change, a nonprofit dedicated to driving innovation in the child welfare system and hosts a podcast about adoption, identity and family, "Born in June, Raised in April" which is available on iTunes.