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!”
Julie Madden, Accountant
Julie joined the MN ADOPT team as the organization’s Accountant in 2008. Julie completed a Child Psych/Social Welfare degree followed by several years working directly with children with severe disabilities. After that experience, she made the decision to return to college to pursue a degree in Accounting.
Prior to working for MN ADOPT, Julie was the Financial Manager for: a Co-op grocery store; a group of Pediatric Surgeons; and as the Bookkeeper/Sr. Systems Coordinator for a Community Clinic.
“Working at MN ADOPT allows me to combine my dual interests in finance and child welfare. Outside my work with MN ADOPT, I schedule substitute teachers for a school and am self-employed as Madden Accounting/Tax Service preparing individual taxes as well as financial statements for several small non-profits. I keep busy!”
Jolie Ritchie, IT & Website Specialist
Jolie brought her technology and team building skills to the MN ADOPT team in 2005. Starting initially as a temporary employee to assist with a large project identifying adoption-focused resources across the state, her role became permanent and has expanded over the years to oversee all crucial IT info structure and ongoing tech development. Jolie’s skills are a crucial component to MN ADOPT’s online success!
“I enjoy challenging my creative side on both the MN ADOPT website and with the upgrades we make on the State Adoption Exchange. Both of these help to further our reach to adoptive families and the social workers finding families for our Minnesota foster kids.”
MN ADOPT Zero Kids Waiting Program:
Cathy Stang, State Adoption Exchange 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
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, Adoption Information Specialist
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.”
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”
Jackie Brovold, Education Outreach Coordinator
Jackie joined the MN ADOPT team in July 2018 with eagerness to help the Education Program continue to grow and thrive. 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.
“Adoption is so special – and I have always treasured being able to help families grow through adoption. I am excited to take part and help provide families & professionals with Educational opportunities, so that they have the support & resources they need for every chapter of their experience.”
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.”
MN ADOPT HELP Program:
Jetta Wiedemeier Bower, HELP Program Manager
Jetta has worked in the field of child welfare for over thirteen years. She has shared her passion with thousands of parents and professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada by training on topics pertaining to Title IV-E Adoption Assistance, accessing medical assistance, securing benefits for Native American Children, removing the barriers to adoption for children with special needs, race and culture, and advocacy skills. Jetta has authored five publications in the field of child welfare – two pertaining to Title IV-E Adoption Assistance and a 3-book curriculum on Transracial Parenting. In addition, she regularly testified on behalf of parents in administrative hearings and served as an expert witness in a federal trial against a midwestern state that sought to limit foster care benefits for thousands of children with special needs – kids won!
“I am beyond thrilled to have the privilege to work in the field of children welfare, and am so pleased to advocate for the best interests of children and teens and stand proudly alongside the families and professionals working so hard to support them.”
To learn more about Jetta’s professional background, please visit.
Heather Van Brunt, HELP Program Specialist
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 skilled 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 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 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.
Hannah Burton, HELP Program: Post Adoption Navigator
Hannah joined MN ADOPT in September of 2018 with an eagerness to apply her passion and determination to expand the support services provided to adoptive families through the HELP Program. Hannah brings a wide variety of professional experiences with Minnesota’s child welfare system that have provided her with a deep understanding of the challenges families face when navigating resources and services. She is dedicated to removing barriers and increasing accessibility to quality resources, services and support for all children and families.
“I am energized by the courage, tenacity and resilience that families show up with, to face each day. I believe in the immeasurable strength of a community and that we are better, together.”
To learn more about Hannah’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.”