The University of Minnesota's Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare and the Department of Human Services Tuesday announced a new certification program to train social workers and mental health experts who work with adoptive families.
Minnesota families adopted 588 children from the state's foster care system last year, and 397 children were adopted internationally.
Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said the new permanent families were reason for celebration, but the joy and hard work of adoption only starts with that adoption ceremony.
"We have 339 children under state guardianship awaiting adoption now. Many of these are adolescents; they're sibling groups who must be adopted together," said Jesson. "They have a lot of unique needs and that's where this training for the professionals who work with them will help so much."
The state contributed $120,000 in start-up costs for the certification program, which will train 24 people in the Twin Cities and 18 in Duluth this year. The state has designated $57,000 in scholarship funding for the first two years of the program. There are plans to expand to Stearns and Olmstead counties in the future.
Fintan Moore is in the first class to receive the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC). An adoptee himself and the father of an adopted son, Moore said there are too few professionals with the deep knowledge required to assist adoptive families.
"I've sat at tables at park buildings and Lutheran Social Services listening to other adoptive parents who have literally cried in front of me for support, for insight, for respite as they have tried harder and harder to raise children who live every minute of every day with the harsh and lifelong impact of early trauma, early neglect, early maltreatment and abandonment," Moore said.
Adoptive parents will be able to search a database to find professionals who have completed the PACC training.
Joe Kroll with the North American Council on Adoptable Children commended the state and the University for their vision in creating the program.
"[Minnesota] is probably one of the more adoption-friendly states in the country and it's because of the history of the people of Minnesota who have always reached out to folks in need," said Kroll. "A caring people and now we'll get some professionals who can help us through some of the tough times."