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Understanding the complexities of children in the foster care system takes patience and sensitivity to the trauma that may have been experienced. As executive director of adoption for Children’s Home Society, Alexis Oberdorf understands personally what it’s like to be in search of your forever family.
“I benefited from adoption,” Alexis said. “And two of my three kids are adopted. That really means something deep to me.”
Her own journey fuels her passion for giving other kids that same outcome. In her role, Alexis sees the need that exists for Minnesota children in the foster care system to find their forever homes. Many children unable to find a permanent, stable home may face challenges later in life, such as homelessness and inconsistent access to education.
“We know what happens when kids age out of foster care and the outcomes aren't good,” Alexis said. “So, anything we can do to promote kids having permanency is something that is absolutely essential and it’s what is going to help them improve where they go in life, and help them be successful and be productive citizens.”
As the number of children who enter the foster care system continues to rise, there is a growing need for support and services to help provide them with better outcomes. In 2017, there were 16,600 children who entered care, which is a 12 percent increase from the previous year, according to the CHS of Minnesota’s annual report.
To help families in foster care, CHS hosted an event through the Dreambuilders Foundation to support these kids’ back-to-school needs and celebrate their journey into a new school year. The foundation works with organizations and corporations to help positively impact the lives of young children. They do so with a focus on education, health and welfare, leadership, plus community and economic empowerment. The event was a collaboration between CHS, UnitedHealthcare and the Minnesota Vikings.
“We just wanted to celebrate the kids throughout the different things that they encounter throughout the foster system,” said George Edwards, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator. “We appreciate all the people that contribute to their lives.”
The CHS building was filled with kids sporting purple and gold jerseys, hats and pom-poms, as the children and their families anxiously awaited seeing members of their home team. As part of the Dreambuilders program, a grant from UnitedHealthcare went towards providing new winter coats, shoes, shirts and backpacks to foster children and adoptive families. Vikings players and UnitedHealthcare volunteers helped distribute the items.
“Our kids get to see role models,” Alexis said. “They get to understand that people care about them and that they’re out here to support them and to support the families that are caring for them.”
Since 2010, UnitedHealthcare has partnered with 45 professional athletes across the country through the Dreambuilders program. To date, more than $1 million has been donated to programming that supports efforts addressing food insecurity for students, promoting physical activity and assisting with access to playgrounds for students with special needs.
“When you are at the most challenging times in your life, that’s when you need a partner the most,” said Brett Edelson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. “And for us to be able to provide that support to those kids at this moment, I think means more than you can ever imagine.”