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Yes, I Like Some CHSFS People: My Conversations With Julie Hart and Aleida Zollman

My contempt for Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) is with the leadership, not with the general employee populace.  The leadership, in my opinion (and not necessarily of the folks whom I feature below), is driving what some consider a “sinking ship” further into the depths.  The actions of the agency’s board of directors and “the higher ups” not only impact the adoption community, but the people who do the actual work there.  How many layoffs can one adoption agency endure?  My understanding is that employee morale has been down for a while, which is too bad.  I know some really fun people who work there.

As some of you know, I worked at CHSFS in a past life.  I made some great friends there, and two of them decided to humor me.



Julie Hart

AJ, Julie, and Aloun

Julie and I hold the distinction of having worked at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) and CHSFS.  Woo-hoo!  We’ve also traveled to Korea together with our friend Peter Winzig, and have some awesome kids (my son and daughter love AJ) and awesome partners (her husband Aloun and I frequently hang out).

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: What have you been up to since you “retired” from CHSFS?

Julie: Since “retiring” from CHSFS, I got married and then moved to S. Korea with my husband (which is why I resigned from the agency).  My husband and I then lived in S. Korea for two years, and during this time became first-time parents as we had our son AJ in Jeonju, S. Korea.  We returned from S. Korea in the summer of 2009.  I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom since.

Within this past year, I was recruited to be on the Advisory Group of Adoptees Have Answers (AHA) and have provided peer support to adult adoptees (when needed/requested).  I’m also a peer/co-leader of a support group for international/transracial adult adoptees through AHA.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Is there a role(s) that adoptees can play in private adoption agencies like CHSFS and LSS?

Julie: I’m sure there are roles that adoptees can play in private adoption agencies.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: (Julie, you’re a person of few words…)  What is your advice to adoptee social workers who are considering a life in adoption?

Julie: My advice for adoptees who are social workers or want to become social workers and work in adoption is to know yourself well and obtain good supervision.


Aleida Zollman

Aleida was a Collegiate Fellow when I started my freshman year at Gustavus Adolphus College.  We met again when she worked at CHSFS.  Seek her out if you ever want to hear not-so-flattering stories about me.  She knows some doozies.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You work for the State of MN as a Corrections Therapist.  What does that entail?

Aleida: I’m a master’s level psychologist working out of the medium security prison in Faribault.  I am responsible for maintaining a case load of offenders who are seeking mental health services for a variety of issues from anxiety or depression to schizophrenia and personality disorders.  I work with men convicted of a variety of crimes, from drug related offenses to burglary to criminal sexual conduct to murder.  I provide individual and group therapy, as well as assist with release planning, assessment, and crisis intervention.  My motivation for this work is to assist with individual growth and change, maintain a safe prison environment, and, most importantly, to reduce the risk to the community as the vast majority of these offenders will some day be walking outside of the fence.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: From your perspective as a therapist and someone who is aware of adoption issues, what more do you think can be done in MN in regards to adoption?

Aleida: I was sadly disenchanted when I explored the world of adoption and adoption related services.  In my opinion, more needs to be done from a therapeutic perspective. During my time in adoption, I found most services geared towards the children, rather than the family.  And it seemed that most services were about some form of social support, rather than an active exploration of the complexities and dynamics involved in forming a family through adoption.  Additionally, I felt that the training for families adopting infants lacked information about the potential therapeutic issues that may arise.  Conversely, the training for families adopting older children seemed to address therapeutic concerns, but in a way that seemed to minimize the responsibility of the parents.

Overall, increased awareness and a willingness from agencies to refer to mental health professionals rather than providing “on paper” services to families would be my desire. And shit, on the county level, a much better system for storing, tracking, and communicating information about birth families.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You and I crossed paths at CHSFS.  What’s your favorite memory of the agency?

Aleida: It’s the experience I had connecting with a little girl who was a part of one of the groups at the agency.  I had such a strong feeling of wanting to do more, and feeling that it simply wasn’t possible given the context.  This was a powerful learning experience; it was humbling.  The experience taught me a great deal of how we as professionals add to the number of losses that children face.  It taught me how to honor those relationships in a way that recognizes that they must end, but that the child’s experience of those endings deserves careful and mindful attention.

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