Ampersand Families

Why Are We Called Ampersand Families?

The ampersand — & — is a symbol with which we’re all familiar. In writing it connects words and ideas.  For us, the & is a constant reminder that our role is to be connectors in partnership with youth.  We bring together people, resources and ideas that help young people to keep and build life-long relationships. We make more room at the table for youth to be part of decisions made about their lives.  People & Resources & Ideas & Youth Voice & New Relationship & Past Relationships come together at Ampersand Families to restore belonging, dignity and hope.

How We Began

Ampersand Families was founded in 2008 to fill a gap in existing adoption efforts: Teens that had been removed from their parents’ care due to abuse and neglect 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 (current executive director) and Jen Braun (former co-executive officer) 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 (DHS) had estimated prior to the project start that only 4% of Minnesota teens awaiting adoption at age 15 would enter a family.

You can read more about The Homecoming Project (PDF) or 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.

Since opening in 2008, Ampersand Families has grown from a staff of 3 with a budget of about $300,000 to 10 people and almost $1 million in FY 2016.  Our success has been made possible because of the dedicated leadership of the 24 people who have served on our board of directors and the unwavering support of  more than 20 foundations and close to 1,000 individual donors.

We have also been in four different offices spaces to accommodate our growing staff.  As of June 2021 we are settled into sunny Suite 300 in the Rose District building off of County Road B West in Roseville.

Explore our site to learn more about:


Ampersand Families Position Statement on Reproductive Justice

Ampersand Families is proud to provide services in the state of Minnesota, where in 1995 our Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution protects not only a woman’s* right to have an abortion, but also protects their right to decide to have an abortion (Doe vs. Gomez).  We stand firmly with Governor Walz and his Executive Order… Read more

In Memory of George Floyd

Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better do better.  – Maya Angelou Ampersand Families offers our deepest condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd  Though we offer condolences, we do so knowing that our thoughts, words or prayers mean little without our commitment to doing the… Read more

Be a Buddy Family

Buddy Families – An Enriching Experience Have you heard of our Buddy Family program? Buddy families are just regular people in the community who step up to become part of the support network for an adoptive family. They get to know parents and their new kids, and help out by spending a couple evenings and… Read more

A Youth’s Perspective

Cloey is awesome at engaging in her own recruitment. Check out her most recent insightful message about older youth adoption. My name’s Cloey. I’m 15 years old. I’m a sophomore and I look forward to going to school every day. What I like about school is being around my friends and sometimes learning about the… Read more

The Brevity of Childhood: Reflections from a Former Permanency Specialist

One of the things that continues to inspire my work as a Permanency Specialist at Ampersand Families is our commitment to “honor the brevity of childhood.” We work with teenagers and we know that the clock is ticking for these kids to be able to experience what remains of their childhood within the security and… Read more

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