Permanency Innovation & Consultation Director & Co-Founder
Michelle co-founded Ampersand Families and was the agency’s Executive Director until January 2022 when she shifted into her current role providing consultation to other organizations. 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 who were under state guardianship in Minnesota. She 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. Michelle’s 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 aged out of foster care in Colorado and has been a foster and host home parent. At the core of her work is the fervent belief that youth must be present at every table where decisions are being made about their lives, including at the policy level. She believes children belong with their families and that the child welfare system must be focused on strengthening support networks around families and on addressing systemic economic and opportunity barriers faced disproportionately by Black and Native families.
Michelle holds a master’s in social work from Augsburg College in Minneapolis (1994).