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:

Are they kids or are they case numbers?

Sometimes people ask me to give an example of the second part of our mission, which is, “to recruit and support permanent families for older youth, and to champion practices in adoption and permanency that restore belonging, dignity and hope.” Recently, a 15-year-old that I’m working with contacted me about something that was very upsetting… Read more

Glitter Ball V was a hit!

We wanted to send a big shout out to everyone who made Glitter Ball V a success! Thank you for attending and for rocking the house with us.  Black Joe Lewis was a hit, and Viva Knievil was a funk-and-soul delight. Special thanks to Rock the Cause for partnering with us, and for selecting Ampersand… Read more

From Alyssa Lund, Heart Gallery Coordinator

Nearly three years ago, I started working at Ampersand Families as the Coordinator of the Minnesota Heart Gallery. At the time, I was a sophomore in college and while I thought the position sounded pretty interesting, I was mostly excited to add an internship onto my resume. I had no idea what an impact the… Read more

Family Builder’s Network 2013

Ampersand Families was proud to host the Family Builder’s Network for their annual think tank. We were so proud to have so many of the leaders in the field of adolescent permanency all in the same room….at our place!  One whole day of the two-day meeting was dedicated to stakeholder input for the Longitudinal study… Read more

Ampersand Families on MPR

Foster children face challenges as they age out of system Oct 21, 2013  Listen to interview audio Guests Cris Beam: Author and creative writing instructor at Columbia University and Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility Michelle Chalmers: Co-executive officer at Ampersand Families, which recruits and supports permanent families for older youth Cris Beam was a high school… 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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