Ampersand Families was formed in 2008 to help older youth and teens in foster care join safe, loving, permanent families through adoption.
Over time, our work has evolved to prioritize family preservation and relative/kin connections whenever possible.
We work downstream with older youth who have spent years in foster care, and we work upstream with kids of any age immediately after they are removed from their parents, finding and engaging relatives and kin who can safely care for a child or sibling group while they are away from their parents, with family reunification as the goal.
When relatives/kin are not an option for permanency, we carefully prepare non-relative adoptive families for the complex and critical role they will play, particularly in transracial adoptions, and we ensure youth, once adopted, can maintain affirming connections to their first families, communities, and cultures.
Through this work, we’ve helped hundreds of amazing families of all backgrounds come together.
Ampersand Families was founded in 2008 to fill a gap in existing adoption efforts. Teens who had been removed from their parents’ care had a slim chance of joining an adoptive family before aging out of foster care, because few programs existed to help bring teens to permanency. Most programs for teens were developed to help them age out of care.
Ampersand Families emerged from the pioneering work of co-founders Michelle Chalmers and Jen Braun in The Homecoming Project.
From 2003 to 2008, Chalmers led the federally funded demonstration project that showed that permanent families can be found for teenagers labeled “hard to place” in Minnesota’s child welfare system.
Working with some of the state’s oldest and longest-waiting foster teens (not those selected for ease of placement), the Homecoming Project succeeded in connecting 57% of the youth with permanent families. By contrast, the Minnesota Department of Human Services had estimated prior to project start that only four percent of Minnesota teens awaiting adoption at age 15 would enter a family.
Read about The Homecoming Project and listen to the national, award-winning American RadioWorks documentary, Wanted: Parents, that followed Jen Braun and her work to bring a teen brother and sister into an adoptive family: