Now contracted by the Department of Human Services, the organization’s mission is simple: to promote and support successful adoptions for Minnesota families.
“It’s about creating stable home environments,” said Emily Alewine, program manager and clinical specialist at MN ADOPT HELP, a program of MN ADOPT. “We take that very seriously here.”
Located at 777 Raymond Ave. in St. Anthony Park, the program includes assistance for a wide gamut of adoptive families.
“We might have questions from parents of 30-year-old adoptees dealing with depression to families just thinking of entering the adoption process,” Alewine said. “Adoption is not a one-time event, it’s a lifetime process.”
The organization, which employs 11 staffers, is not a placement agency but rather a hub of resources and information for families dealing with a variety of adoption-based issues. MN ADOPT offers advice on questions such as the complexities of the adoption process, assistance with expenses, and referrals to local and national organizations that specialize in specific adoption issues. MN ADOPT HELP, run by Alewine, is an initiative started in 2011 that focuses on offering support to families post-adoption through phone support from clinical specialists, referrals to vetted therapists, training sessions and support groups.
“Families preparing for adoption get a lot of support, even praise from everyone around them,” Alewine explained. “They are not necessarily made aware of the issues that might arise after the adoption is finalized for these kids who have had hard beginnings. No one tells them that this is going to be difficult, that there will be unique challenges.”
“Our goal is to set up families with enough resources ahead of time so that we take less of those crisis calls,” said Rachel Walstad, MN ADOPT executive director.
MN ADOPT also runs the State Adoption Exchange, a photo listing of some of Minnesota’s Waiting Children—children in the foster care system waiting for a permanent home—as well as events that bring families together with waiting children in interactive ways. Other events, such as the annual Circus of the Heart that runs during National Adoption Month in November, are fun-filled activities for all families who are impacted by adoption to come together and celebrate.
Because MN ADOPT doesn’t place children in homes or handle specific cases, it is able to be more effective in its handling of the families’ concerns, Walstad said. Often, families in the process of adoption hesitate to ask their caseworker for help because of how their family might be perceived.
“Because we are not a placement agency, we can be perhaps more neutral in our dealings with families,” Walstad said. “We can be more objective and collaborative with other resource outlets because we are not the caseworkers. We support the work that the counties and agencies are doing to find homes for kids.”
Families with a child who is struggling to adjust might feel safer coming to MN ADOPT for answers and resources rather than the agency that placed the child in their care. Additionally, finding resources for families is all MN ADOPT staff does, making them experts in finding the right help for the right situation.
“Caseworkers have full plates,” Alewine said. “They may not have their fingers on the pulse of what is available out there. We have years of experience doing this day in and day out—finding answers and help for families.”
To that end, the organization recently received the Angels in Adoption award from the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute. The Angels in Adoption Program honors individuals and organizations that work on behalf of children in need of permanent homes.
“We were nominated for the award by both Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tom Emmer. This was a great honor for us,” Alewine said. “We were told that we were named for the award because we are the only place in the country they know of that supports both aspects of adoption, before and after.”
You can find out more about MN ADOPT at www.mnadopt.org.