MN ADOPT STAFF
Get to know the MN ADOPT team!
The MN ADOPT team consists of a small group of deeply committed professionals who have a passion and dedication to supporting and advocating for all those touched by adoption, foster and kinship care and the workers/community members who intersect with this population.
As a group of diverse individuals, we work very hard as a team to create an organization that respects, honors and celebrates our team, provides needed support to all those touched by adoption, foster and kinship care, and takes great pride in being a respected leader in the Minnesota community!
To contact an individual below please go to our Contact Us page.
Rachel Walstad, Executive Director
Rachel joined the MN ADOPT organization as Executive Director in July of 2014. With 15+ years of experience in the field of adoption, Rachel brings deep understanding of adoption and has worked across all types of adoption, both in direct service and leadership roles, including: Pregnancy Counseling; Post-Adoption Support; International; Domestic Infant; and Foster Care Adoption.
“Growing up, there were important people in my life that were touched by adoption in different ways. Through these experiences I developed an interest and passion to support those connected to adoption.”
“What gives me the most energy about being at MN ADOPT is our ability to work collaboratively with the broader adoption community. It is through this collaboration that we are going to truly be able to make a difference for Minnesota children and families!”
Mary Bruce, Accountant
Mary joined the MN ADOPT team as the Accountant in October 2020. Mary has worked for charitable nonprofits of all sizes for the last 20 years. Prior to working at MN ADOPT, she spent five years specializing in grant accounting for nonprofits.
“I enjoy working with program managers to support them in their work with families. I want to use my skills to contribute to the mission of MN ADOPT and make Minnesota adoptive and foster families stronger than ever.”
Jolie Ritchie, IT Manager
Jolie brought her technology and team building skills to the MN ADOPT team in 2005. Jolie oversees all crucial IT info structure, the MN ADOPT website, State Adoption Exchange database and ongoing tech development. Jolie’s skills are a crucial component to MN ADOPT’s online success!
“I am able to challenge my creative side on both the MN ADOPT website and with the upgrades we make on the SAE. Both of these help to further our reach to adoptive families and the social workers finding families for our Minnesota foster kids.”
Jackie Brovold, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
Jackie joined the MN ADOPT team in July 2018 as the Education Outreach Coordinator. In 2019, her role has expanded to the Communications & Marketing Coordinator. She began her career in adoption in 2008, bringing years of experience in support and adoption related work with her previous role at Children’s Home & Lutheran Social Service of MN.
“I enjoy being creative and using that skill to bring awareness to our communities of our work and our commitment to having Zero Kids Waiting in Minnesota.”
MN ADOPT Zero Kids Waiting Program:
Cathy Stang, Zero Kids Waiting Program Manager
Since 2008 Cathy has shared her skills, dedication and commitment to helping all those touched by adoption. As a Licensed Social Worker, and an adopted person, she knows firsthand about some of the complexities that go along with adoption. She feels that both her professional and personal knowledge are a great fit for the various supportive services that MN ADOPT provides!
“I am hopeful that one day there will be Zero Kids Waiting for permanency and am dedicated to doing whatever I can to help that become a reality!”
Julie Hart, State Adoption Exchange Coordinator, Metro area
Having worked as a social worker in the adoption community off and on since 1999, Julie was well aware of the MN ADOPT organization before starting as the MN ADOPT Adoption Information Specialist in 2014.
Julie has played an active role in the Minnesota adoption community professionally and personally in various roles and capacities over the years. She has known and worked with birthparents, many adopted persons and adoptive families, as well as adoption workers and experts. Julie is a Licensed Independent Social Worker in the state of Minnesota.
“What inspires me about working in adoption is the resilience I continue to see!”
Margo Kurth, State Adoption Exchange Coordinator, Metro area
Margo joined the MN ADOPT team in September of 2018, after more than 18 years as an elementary school teacher. She was drawn to a career in the adoption field as a result of her experience with the adoption process.
During her time as an educator in several schools across the country, and as an adoptive parent, Margo has gained a deep understanding of how trauma, loss and grief can affect children; she also understands the importance of providing them with a loving, stable and supportive home.
She brings great enthusiasm and passion to her role at MN ADOPT, as she supports other families in their adoption journey.
“Experiencing the process of adoption through foster care, firsthand, has encouraged me to support other families considering adoption. Assisting potential adoptive families, in any way possible, is ultimately how we will find wonderful homes for Minnesota’s Waiting Children!”
Kim Sacay, Recruitment Coordinator
Kim joined MN ADOPT in October 2018 in the role of State Adoption Exchange Recruitment Coordinator. Kim brings a variety of business and grass roots marketing experience to her role.
She is passionate about making a difference in our community and motivated to raise public awareness and engage others about the need for foster and adoptive families in our state.
“I am inspired everyday by the dedicated people making a difference in the lives of children, I am honored to be part of this community. “
Kim Young, Foster Care & Kinship Specialist
Kim Young joined MN ADOPT in February of 2019 as the Foster Care & Kinship Specialist. She has worked with children and families throughout her entire career, with her most recent experience as an Adoption Worker and Foster Care Licensor with a private agency. She is excited to continue to support families in this new role.
“I continue to be energized and humbled to be a part of the process of adoption and foster care. Every child deserves emotional and physical safety. I am committed to continue looking for homes for these children, in the hopes that one day, there will in fact be Zero Kids Waiting.”
Jennifer Tolle, State Adoption Exchange Coordinator, Central/Northern Minnesota
Jennifer joined the MN ADOPT team in August of 2020. Previously working in Child Welfare, Chemical Dependency, and Child Foster Care Licensing at a county agency, she has experience in providing direct services to children and families. She is passionate in supporting children on their journey to reaching permanency and is excited to continue to do so in the North and Central regions of Minnesota.
“I am honored by the opportunity to serve a role in the pursuit of safety and stability for Minnesota Waiting Kids, as well as inspired by the courage and strength of the children and families I meet along the way.”
Sarah Clarke, State Adoption Exchange Coordinator, Southern Minnesota
Sarah Clarke joined MN ADOPT in August of 2020. She has worked with children and families in various facets over the years. Her experience includes working in Adoption and Child Welfare at a county agency and working at a local nonprofit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault agency. In her years of experience working with children and families of Southern Minnesota she has seen a great need for additional services and supports. Sarah is excited to be part of MN ADOPT’s growth in outlying areas of the state.
“I look forward to continuing to advocate for the children and families of Southern Minnesota in this new role and to be a resource in providing permanency for Minnesota Waiting Kids.”
Hayley Wiesman, Adoption Information Specialist
Hayley joined the MN ADOPT team in November of 2020 as the Adoption Information Specialist. She came to the organization after working as an adoption home study worker, foster care licensor and child specific recruiter at a private agency. Prior to that, she worked in Wisconsin as a Special Needs Adoption Worker and a Birth-3 Service Coordinator. Hayley has personally seen the difference that adoption can make in someone’s life and is excited to continue working in the field in a new role.
“I love to see how resilient kids can be, and how strong families are. Adoption isn’t always pretty, but it’s always worth it.”
MN ADOPT Education Program:
Stephanie Regnier, Education Program Manager
Stephanie joined MN ADOPT in May of 2016 as the Education Program Manager & Coordinator. Stephanie brings a vast amount of experience and knowledge to her role and has played a vital role in expanding the MN ADOPT Education Program!
Stephanie began her professional career in adoption in 1999. She quickly became passionate about working alongside individuals and families who are making an amazing difference in children’s lives. Stephanie spent several years in direct service, working both as an Adoption Worker and later a Program Manager for the MN’s Waiting Children Program at Lutheran Social Service.
“I enjoy helping adoptive families and professionals by bringing them education and new perspectives. Adoption is unique and complicated for each person, and I love that MN ADOPT can offer these workshops to assist with practical ideas to help in parenting”
Wendylee Raun, Education Coordinator
Wendylee began her tenure at MN ADOPT in 2001 as the Post-Adoption Training Coordinator. Over the years her role has evolved. Currently she brings her skills full circle to her new role with the Education team, focusing on planning and facilitating training opportunities for adoptive, foster and kinship families as well as the professionals that serve them. As MN ADOPT’s longest standing team-member, she brings a vast amount of knowledge, experience and wisdom to the MN ADOPT team and Minnesota adoption community as a whole!
“Throughout my time at MN ADOPT, no matter my position, my drive has been to educate professionals in many arenas on adoption related topics. Through helping families be the best they can be, we help children heal. Seeing the miraculous effect a safe and loving home has on children who have experienced trauma makes the challenges more than worthwhile. Many Minnesota children need families. Whatever I can do to facilitate that is what I strive to accomplish.”
“My husband and I adopted our daughter from Hennepin County foster care in 1984. She was five years old at the time and had been in many foster care placements. At that time there was no training for adoptive parents, so we struggled mightily to meet her needs. When she was a teen I entered graduate school and as part of my program began volunteering at an adoption agency. This volunteer option in the special needs adoption program led to career path that continues to this day. Helping children and families have the best experience of adoption is my life’s work!”
Katie Muller, Education Administration Coordinator
Katie joined the MN ADOPT team in April 2019 and is eager to dive into the adoption world. Since 2012, Katie has worked various jobs in Customer Service. Katie graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015 with her BA in International Studies.
“I am thrilled to join MN ADOPT and the adoption community! I look forward to learning more about the needs of the community and providing trainings that fit those needs.”
Jessica Miller, Education Coordinator
Jessica joined the MN ADOPT team as an Education Coordinator in 2020. As a foster and adoptive parent, Jessica brings both experience and passion to our organization. She understands the unique challenges that foster and adoptive parents face and she is personally invested in creating opportunities for support, growth, and education. Originally from NE, Jessica received her B.A. from St. Cloud State University and now calls MN home. Jessica has held a variety of titles including: County Eligibility Worker, Parent Educator, and her personal favorite – mom.
“Every child needs love, an opportunity to be their best self, and a constant reminder that they are not facing this world alone. And so do their caregivers.”
JT Pinther, Administrative Coordinator
Education & HELP Programs
JT joined the MN ADOPT team in July 2020, coming from the corporate world. He’s been excited to see how each program within MN ADOPT works together to not only support finding homes for children, but also building relationships, educating parents and professionals, and dedicating resources to helping these families grow and heal together.
“As someone new to MN ADOPT, I can already see the unwavering passion my colleagues have for the work they do. I truly believe it’s nothing short of saving lives.”
MN ADOPT HELP Program:
Heather Van Brunt, HELP Program Manager
Heather joined the MN ADOPT HELP Program team in the summer of 2013 and has been fundamental in creating a successful, innovative program. With ~20 years of experience in the field of adoption, Heather brings a passion, dedication and deep understanding of adoption to her work. She has worked across many types of adoption in direct service roles, including: Pregnancy Counseling; Domestic Infant; Foster Care Adoption; and Post-Adoption Support.
“I have a deep respect for the beautiful and difficult layers for all who are touched by the adoption process. Children and families deserve specialized support throughout the different chapters of their experiences.”
To learn more about Heather’s professional background, please visit.
Andrea Brubaker, HELP Program Specialist
Andrea joined the MN ADOPT HELP Program team in the fall of 2015 and has been fundamental in creating a successful, innovative program. She is an adopted person dedicated to helping families navigate the complex layers of adoption that permeate throughout the individual and family lifecycle.
Andrea completed her Bachelor of Arts at University of Wisconsin – Madison, and has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota. She is also a graduate of the Permanency & Adoption Competency Certificate Program (PACC) offered through the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota.
“I am immensely humbled by the individual capacity for growth, empathy, and compassion even during the darkest times, and am honored to be welcomed into the lives of children and families to help them along their journey.”
To learn more about Andrea’s professional background, please visit.
Gail Garner Swenson, HELP Program Specialist
Gail joined the MN ADOPT HELP Program team in March of 2018 and is eager to contribute to their creative energy as the team continues to grow and innovate their highly successful program. With both her long history of child advocacy and her work in the field of older youth adoption, she is dedicated to providing support to adoptive, kinship and foster families who are dealing with the complex issues of childhood trauma, grief, and disrupted attachment.
“I am motivated by my belief that childhood is a treasure; a foundational birthright to our human experience. My hope in providing skilled support to adoptive, kinship and foster families is that childhood can be claimed and reclaimed for children and teens whose lives have been impacted by trauma, grief, and loss.”
To learn more about Gail’s professional background, please visit.
Kelly Heagle, HELP Program Specialist
Kelly joined the MN ADOPT HELP program team in 2018 and brings with her a passion for adoptive families. As an adoptive parent and adoption competent therapist, she is dedicated to connecting families to needed services and working with systems of care to bring about changes to benefit families and children.
“Adoption holds a special place in my life and I understand the complexities and joys that make up adoptive families. I am passionate about listening well to families and their needs and connecting them to resources that will have meaningful impact for them and their children.”
To learn more about Kelly’s professional background, please visit.
Danielle Lewis, HELP Program Specialist
Danielle joined the MN ADOPT HELP Program in August of 2020. Since 2010 she has experience at private agencies, educational settings and in child welfare. She has a BA in Sociology, a BA in Child Studies, a Master’s in Social Work and has completed the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training.
“I believe that family can be central for healing and every child, no matter what, deserves to understand how that love can feel. I want to help families with providing essential support they need to feel confident in their role and remove as many barriers as I can”.
To learn more about Danielle’s professional background, please visit.
Christina Romo, HELP Program: Post-Adoption Navigator
Christina joined MN ADOPT in August of 2020 and brings a strong passion for supporting and honoring children and families as they navigate the realities and complexities of adoption and permanency. She is an adopted person with experience working in a variety of roles within child welfare, adoption, and other sectors of social services that have enabled her to develop a deep understanding of the complex needs of children and families who have experienced foster care and adoption.
“I have witnessed the magic that can happen when children and parents feel seen, understood, embraced, and supported by a community that shares similar lived experiences and where they can feel safe to be who they are, share about the joys and challenges of adoption, and know that they are not alone. I believe in the power of post-adoption services and supports and the endless ways in which these resources can help parents better understand and support the needs of their children and family as a whole throughout their adoption journeys.”
To learn more about Christina’s professional background, please visit.
MN ADOPT Search Services:
Allie Schmidt, Post Adoption Search Specialist
Allie Schmidt joined MN ADOPT in March of 2018 in the role of Post Adoption Search Specialist, and will work collaboratively with state and tribal agencies, county agencies and private placing agencies to provide information and referral to those seeking birth records or search services. Allie brings many years experiences in support and adoption related work, most notably through her work as a Pregnancy Counselor for over 14 years at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and HOPE Adoption & Family Services.
” I am passionate and dedicated to supporting and advocating for all those touched by adoption.”