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MN ADOPT provides referrals, education, and support after adoption

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

MN ADOPT logo state_coloredBy MARIA A. HERD

One out of every thirty-five children in the United States is adopted, according to the Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and policy organization based in New York.

But once a child is adopted, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. That’s where MN ADOPT, 777 Raymond Ave., comes in.

“We have come to realize that finding homes for kids isn’t enough. These families need support; these kids have had pretty substantial and traumatic histories,” said Rachel Walstad, the Executive Director of MN ADOPT.

MN ADOPT is not your traditional adoption organization agency. Instead, they collaborate with other agencies, connecting them with interested parents, and then provide on-going support for families.

MN ADOPT - Angels in Adoption PhotoPhoto left: Emily Alewine (left), HELP Program Manager & Clinical Specialist and MN ADOPT Executive Director Rachel Walstad in Washington DC accepting their award at the Angels in Adoption Award Ceremony. (Photo submitted)

Walstad likes to think of MN ADOPT’s role as bookends to the adoption process. “On the front end we answer questions, encourage parents to explore that option and consider adoption,” she said.

Then on the post-adoption side, they give life-long support to families by providing parenting training, referrals to therapists and organizations, and sponsoring fun events for adopted children.

The organization’s mission is to provide services and resources to all types of adoptive families—including domestic infant, international, kinship and foster care—to help sustain successful adoptions. The organization is distinct in that its services are open to all adoptive families, whereas the majority of similar organizations in other states are focused on foster adoptions only.

“That we provide equally to all families is unique, and a testament to the state understanding that all adoptive families have needs,” said Walstad.

In 1980 MN ADOPT was founded in a basement by a group of parents who saw a need to support adopted children. Since then, the organization has been located in suburbs as well as downtown Minneapolis. But the organization has been working out of the Midway, at 777 Raymond Ave., since June.

The organization is funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and also receives a small amount of individual and corporate donations.

Therapeutic Support
Three clinical therapists who specialize in adoption, trauma and attachment operate MN ADOPT’s warm line to offer verbal support to families.

If a family needs additional support, staff provide tailored referrals to therapists based on location, health insurance and the challenges that the family is experiencing. MN ADOPT also refers its callers to educational and community resources that might be helpful.

“It’s a very good resource for adoptive parents who don’t know where to turn. I had no idea what to do with my kids; it was a very bad time. I needed direction,” said one parent in a testimonial. “MN ADOPT helped me find a therapist and they helped talk me through what was going on. Any parent who might be in the same spot would appreciate their help.”

In the first fiscal quarter of this year, MN ADOPT had 85 intakes, the term for “having that in-depth conversation with a family and providing them with those tailored options,” explained Emily Alewine, the HELP Program Manager and Clinical Specialist at MN ADOPT.

Not only do parents reach out to MN ADOPT, but social workers, school nurses and lawyers will also call seeking guidance on issues that can arise with adoption.

“The workers in this program are quick to respond with options and ideas which help the adoptive parents locate services, education and support. There continues to be a high need for this type of program in Minnesota to help prevent disruptions for children,” said an agency social worker in a testimonial.

Parenting Training
“All of these children have an over-arching theme of having hard beginnings, and having different experiences in their life that really require a well prepared and well supported environment,” said Alewine.

To assist parents in providing that supportive environment, MN ADOPT holds trainings in-person and via webinar for anyone to tune in throughout Minnesota. Lead by local and nationally recognized adoption experts, training topics include children’s mental health, parent-focused strategies, racial identity, attachment information, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, complex trauma, grief and loss, and sexual abuse.

In addition, two ongoing training series are offered throughout the year and in various locations around the state. Alewine refers to the ten session series called Beyond Consequences as one of the most helpful trainings for parents with children who have experienced hard beginnings and early trauma.

“There are different approaches that need to take place to connect with those children and help them thrive, and help families become a cohesive group, where traditional parenting typically does not work,” she said.

Beyond Consequences provides alternate strategies and hands-on tools for parenting these children.

In the last few months, Walstad estimates MN ADOPT has trained an average of 70 parents a month.

MN ADOPT also connects parents facing similar issues to build peer support.
“A lot of families contact us and say that they’re isolated and no one understands what they’re experiencing,” said Alewine. “We help normalize what they’re going through and help create that stronger base of support so that it isn’t isolating.”
Angles in Adoption Award
Last fall, MN ADOPT was nominated by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Tom Emmer for the Angels in Adoption award which honors individuals, couples and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions on the behalf of children in need of families.

MN ADOPT & Amy Klobuchar - Angels in Adoption AwardPhoto right (l to r): Emily Alewine, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar  and Rachel Walstad in Washington DC at the Angels in Adoption Award Ceremony. (Photo submitted)

The award comes from the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute, a Washington DC-based, non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about the needs of children without families, and to remove policy barriers that hinder children from joining adoptive families.

“MN ADOPT has worked for over 30 years helping Minnesotan children find loving homes with nurturing families,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar in a statement to the Midway Como Monitor. “This incredible organization stands as a powerful example of the good that can be done when we work together to support families pre-and post-adoption.”

Walstad and Alewine traveled to Washington D.C. in October for the for Angels in Award ceremony.

“The award was a great honor on our end, but also very validating to know that the type of stuff that we’re trying to do is very progressive by looking at the holistic needs of these children and families,” said Alewine.




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