Apr 5, 2022 - Politics

Tennessee adoption nonprofit launches

 The Adoption Project logo
Image: courtesy of The Adoption Project

Two state government mainstays are teaming up to lead a new nonprofit focused on improving Tennessee adoption policies.

  • The Adoption Project will push for changes that would make Tennessee "the most adoption-friendly state in the country," according to an announcement.

Driving the news: Jeremy Harrell and Jennifer Donnals, both of whom have deep ties to state government, will steer the project.

  • Harrell, the CEO, worked on former Gov. Bill Haslam's gubernatorial campaigns and served in his administration.
  • Donnals, the COO, served as Haslam's former spokesperson and the former chief of staff for the Department of Children's Services under Gov. Lee.

Between the lines: Harrell and Donnals are both adoptive parents. They tell Axios the cause represents a fusion of their personal passion and professional experience.

  • "My whole career has led up to this," Donnals says. "Using my skills and my experience to try to help others is really rewarding."
  • "This was, in a lot of ways, a leap of faith for our family," says Harrell, adding that the early response from state leaders had been encouraging.

The bottom line: A goal of the new organization, Harrell says, will be to target those "pieces of the policy that are too cumbersome" while keeping necessary "guardrails" in place.

  • For example, Harrell says, Tennessee law required him and his wife Michelle to care for their adopted child in their home for six months before the adoption could be finalized. Harrell says they paid thousands in out-of-pocket medical costs because their insurance required finalization for coverage.

State of play: Haslam and his wife Crissy will serve on committees that guide the organization's work. Members of Lee's administration are also working with the group.

What's next: Harrell says The Adoption Project's goal is to push specific legislative changes starting in 2023.

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