Michelle Chalmers (she/her) – Permanency Innovation & Consultation Director

Michelle Chalmers, MSW, LISW (she/her) – Permanency Innovation & Consultation Director & Co-Founder

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.

Fun Fact About Michelle

Michelle has had the incredible experience of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, Australia with a group of teens from foster care! How cool is that?

Posts by Michelle:

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

Breaking Barriers in Adoption Award

Acceptance Comments Delivered at Voice for Adoption Reception Dirksen Senate Building, Washington, D.C. November 15, 2017   Thank you to Schylar, Melinda and the Voice for Adoption Board for your work – and for recognizing ours.  Thanks, also, to the North American Council on Adoptable Children for your nomination.  To the congressional delegation who is… Read more

Welcome Home Packages

Each year, Ampersand Families represents the youth and/or the family in about 25 adoptive placements.  While every one of those youth and adoptive families are different, one thing they have in common is the excitement, fear and change that comes with move-in day and the first months thereafter.  By the time move-in day comes the… Read more

Birthday greetings from our Founder

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… Read more

Listen to Michelle on Radio AM950

Thank you to host Laurie Beth Fitz for doing such a great job exploring the topic of permanency, and thanks to our friend, Ampersand Families website designer, and co-producer Cary Walski, for recommending us as a guest.   Hope you enjoy the show… Read more

Our Mission

The mission of Ampersand Families is to provide permanency and adoption services to older youth and families who face barriers to equity in child welfare, and to champion systemic changes that advance belonging, dignity and hope.

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