I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that Ampersand Families is 8 years old October 1st.  During these eight years we have worked with 350 individual youth and parents.  In the next couple months we expect to reach a significant milestone…we will have restored 100 youth to families through adoption or other forms of permanency.

If you’ve been around us much you have heard us talk about our unconditional commitment to supporting families – no matter how long ago they adopted.  Knowing that we are there, proactive and available, gives our families confidence to move from thinking about adoption to actually doing it.  Generous gifts from the Richard M. Schulze Foundation, Mardag Foundation and the Sauer Family Foundation have made it possible to for us to keep our commitment to post-placement support and to develop innovative supports to help families succeed.

One of those innovative supports came in the form of a May 2016 family check-in retreat at Camp Knutson.  It was a hit-it-out-of-the-park success. Parents raved about their individual consultation opportunities and youth had a taste of camp life complete with a pontoon board ride on the lake.

In a post next week I will share more about what we are doing to bring holistic mind-body approaches for healing trauma directly to our youth and families.  For now, I’m thrilled to share that we recently got word that we have been selected to receive a seed grant from the George Family Foundation Catalyst Initiative to help us begin to bring powerful tools to help our youth heal.

Our board and staff recently completed our 2016-2019 Strategic Plan.  Increasing in both number and diversity our pool of prospective adoptive families is one of our four strategic initiatives.  We have begun an organization-wide effort to assess and strengthen our cross-cultural communication skills as one of the first steps in the critical work of building a pool of families that is more reflective of the youth we serve. We will be reaching out to community partners to help us be as effective as possible as we forge ahead.

As has been our commitment from day one, we continue to provide leadership in multiple efforts to increase transparency and accountability in Minnesota’s child welfare system.  One of the most exciting efforts underway is the Sauer Collaborative for Child Well-being.  Funded by the Sauer Family Foundation, this is a coordinated effort to shift the orientation of the child welfare system to focus on the well-being of children.  Current practice and data tracking very often ends up emphasizing compliance with laws and practice checklists over actually doing what we can to ensure that children in our community are well.  I have been proud to be a part of the Collaborative, leading the workgroup charged with establishing a definition for child well-being.  I know it sounds crazy, but there literally is no consistent definition for the term despite the fact that it is supposed to be one of the three primary goals of the child welfare system (along with safety and permanency).  Please contact me if you’d like to learn more about this work – it’s really quite exciting.  Ampersand Families is so grateful to the Sauer Family Foundation for the leadership they have taken in this initiative, including bringing several other Minnesota funders on board to support each of the work group’s efforts moving forward.

Lastly, I want to thank the 100’s of individuals who have financially supported Ampersand Families in the past 8 years. You have changed lives – literally transforming the future for (almost) 100 of Minnesota’s most disconnected youth.  Here’s the proof of what you’ve made possible – Yesterday, two young sisters nervously headed into a bowling alley.  Two excited and anxious prospective parents, with their Ampersand Families’ permanency specialist at their side, did the same. Over pizza and bowling these four people took the very first steps towards becoming a family.  Anxiety and questions turned into laughter and photos.  Tonight, and for the next several weeks, they will meet again each time taking a few more baby steps getting to know each other and preparing for move-in day.  Through it all, Ampersand Families will be working with the parents ensuring that everything is set up – school and doctors and therapists and activities and bed rooms and so much more.  Then, the girls will move home and Ampersand Families will be there to help if and when the toll of childhood trauma surfaces and interrupts daily life.  Parents will need support to guide their children to healing; you make that guidance possible.  You help youth heal.

Thank you. Thank you.

Notes from Michelle

About Me Michelle has worked with youth in out-of-home care since 1989, her child welfare career has included front-line staff positions in residential settings, a home-based intensive supervision worker, and youth development work in a therapeutic foster care agency. Prior to co-founding Ampersand Families in October 2008, Michelle directed The Homecoming Project, a federally-funded Adoption Initiatives program to increase adoptions of teenagers from Minnesota’s foster care system. Read More

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