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HELP Specialist Staff

Jetta Wiedemeier Bower (HELP Program Manager):

Jetta holds a B.A. in Intercultural Communication from Arizona State University and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. She started her career in child welfare at the North American Council on Adoptable Children where she managed their national resource center on Title IV-E Adoption Assistance for 13 years. In her role, she trained thousands of parents and professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada on matters pertaining to adoption subsidies, removing the barriers to adoption for children with special needs, and advocacy. During her time at NACAC, she published policy briefs relating to Title IV-E Adoption Assistance and a 3-part curriculum on Transracial Parenting, testified on behalf of parents in administrative hearings, and gained expertise in adoption subsidies for Native American Children, as well as children in Canadian provinces.

Additionally, Jetta proudly served as the Executive Director of March of Dimes Minnesota, an organization committed to advocating for the rights of babies born prematurely. In this role, she and her staff raised millions of dollars for the organization’s mission and increased the public visibility of the organization through community engagement and the media. Jetta has also been a consultant for a variety of organizations including the Minnesota Hospital Association on a project related to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and with ATTACh to provide resource referral and parent support group assistance for caregivers raising special needs children.

“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.”

Heather Van Brunt M. Ed., LSW (HELP Program Specialist):

Heather has a M.Ed. in Counseling from North Dakota State University, a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Minnesota State University – Moorhead and is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW #10393).  In addition to extensive post-graduate training in trauma and attachment, she has graduated from the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC) program through the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota and completed the National Adoption Competency Child Welfare Training Initiative through the Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work.

Heather’s social work career started in 1993. Over the years the bulk of her work experiences have been within the adoption community intermingled with over five years spent living, teaching and traveling abroad from 2002-2007. Before coming to the HELP Program, her work focused on supporting birth and adoptive parents with grief, loss and open adoption relationships as well as educating and supporting parents adopting children with traumatic backgrounds and attachment disruptions. Heather joined the HELP Program in 2013.

She is passionate about providing empathy, professional guidance and hope to parents and caregivers. She values helping parents be heard and meet their child right where they are at given their child’s unique qualities, strengths and sometimes complex needs while doing the same for themselves and families as a whole.

“I have a deep respect for the beautiful and complex layers for all who are touched by the adoption process.  Children and families deserve skilled support throughout the different chapters of their experiences.”

Andrea Brubaker MSW, LISW (HELP Program Specialist):

Andrea holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Minnesota. During her time at the latter institution she was a Fellow in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders program through which she worked with professionals in neurology, educational psychology, genetics, nursing, and social work to improve child welfare programs in Minnesota. Her work there earned her a certificate in Disability Policy and Services. During her studies, she also served as the Permanency and Adoption Intern at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW).

Andrea is certified in Permanency and Adoption Competency (PACC) through the University of Minnesota and has co-trained that curriculum. She is also Trained in Adoption Competency (TAC) through the Center for Adoption Support and Education.

Before joining the MN ADOPT team Andrea served in a St. Paul Public Schools special education classroom, performed child welfare program evaluations for the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, and provided therapeutic services at a day treatment center. Andrea is passionate about social and racial justice issues in adoption and foster care.

“I am truly honored to be a part of the lives of families, and am enlivened by people’s capacity for kindness and compassion during challenging times.”

Gail Garner Swenson (HELP Program Specialist):

Gail earned both her B.A. in English Literature and her M.A. in Teaching English at Bethel University. She has used her training and experience as an educator within the adoption community both as a parent educator and co-leading workshops on adoption-related issues. Gail has continued her education through extensive ongoing training in attachment, trauma and adoption, including her completion in 2018 of the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative through the Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work.

Gail joined the HELP Program in March of 2018 with a long history of advocating for children and childhood. She has a number of direct professional experiences with those touched by adoption and out-of-home placement which contribute to her tapestry of skills, most recently as a long-time employee at Ampersand Families as a Permanency Specialist. From 2000 to 2014 she was a court appointed Guardian ad Litem for Ramsey County and she spent years as a member of the administrative team of Southside Family Nurturing Center, a family-centered program for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Her advocacy work has focused on: the prevention of child abuse and neglect, seeking family-focused solutions, older youth adoption, and providing education and support to parents around the issues of childhood trauma, grief, and 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 families is that childhood can be claimed and reclaimed for children and teens whose lives have been impacted by trauma, grief, and loss.”

Kelly Heagle, MA, LMFT, RPT (HELP Specialist):

Kelly has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Play Therapy Certification from St. Mary’s University. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT #2458) and a Registered Play Therapist. In addition to extensive post-graduate training in trauma and attachment, she has completed the National Adoption Competency Child Welfare Training Initiative through the Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work.

Kelly has worked with adoptive, foster and kinship families in a variety of ways over the past decade including providing therapy services to families by adoption.  She has extensive experience in trauma informed care as well as understanding the many systems that interact with adoptive families.  She has worked in day treatment, school and community settings and has provided outpatient therapy.  She is also an adoptive parent.

“Adoption holds a special place in my life and I understand intently 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.”

Hannah Burton, MSW, LGSW (HELP Program: Post Adoption Navigator):

Hannah is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW # 21069) who received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Bethel University and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota where she was also a Title IV-E child welfare scholar. Hannah brings a wide variety of professional experiences working with children and families in various settings which have provided her with a deep understanding of the challenges families and communities face when navigating resources and services.

Since 2011, Hannah’s work has focused on improving safety, wellness and stability for families, including: Domestic and sexual violence advocacy services and Parent Support Outreach Program case management, Children and Family Services program planning and evaluation, and most recently, in Child Protection Services.

In 2018, she completed the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training (NTI) through the Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work. Hannah brings a unique perspective and a valuable skill set to support children and families as they navigate the complexities of adoption.

“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. It is my passion to increase accessibility and remove barriers to quality resources, services, and support for all families.”

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