Michelle Chalmers, MSW, LISW, (she/her) – Executive Director
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.
Michelle has developed and led workshops nationally and internationally for foster and adoptive parents, social workers, Guardians ad litem/CASA volunteers, and others involved in the lives of youth in care. She has authored professional articles and two books (in partnership with youth) aimed at helping youth engage in their own care. Her leadership was integral to the development a 12-unit permanent supportive housing program in St. Paul, Minnesota that is home to youth who became homeless upon leaving a residential placement.
Michelle holds a master’s in social work from Augsburg College in Minneapolis (1994).
Michelle’s first education into the world of child welfare came in high school when she was placed into foster care in Colorado. She aged out of care in 1985. As a ‘graduate’ of foster care, Michelle is passionate about the need for system reform and the essential role that young people can take in leading child welfare to more effective, youth and family-focused strategies.
She is deeply committed to addressing racial disparities in the child welfare system, and is proud to be a brave voice for change. As a member of the GLBT community, Michelle has also pushed hard for safety and equity for youth and families across their multiple identities.
The opportunity to work with the extraordinary team at Ampersand Families has been an incredible honor for Michelle.
Michelle loves to travel and has been very fortunate to have been to some amazing places. When all is said and done, though Michelle is most happy paddling in the Boundary Waters or wandering somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. Since COVID she’s also taken to wandering gravel roads looking for Lake Superior agates.
Michelle is incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to provide a home and parenting to six young people, now ages 26 to 40.