In our series, Behind the Desk, we’re catching up with some of the incredibly talented, dedicated, and caring individuals who help make everything our organization does possible. This month we’re featuring Claire Hammer, Supervisor for Post Adoption Services, based out of our St. Paul office.
After working in Foster Care Adoption for the past several years, Claire recently accepted a new role at CH/LSS as Supervisor for Post Adoption Services. Thinking ahead to her new role, Claire says, “I am most excited to bring what I’ve learned, take a step back, and see a more complete picture of the story of adoption and how it impacts all whom it touches.” Read more about Claire’s career path and CH/LSS, her favorite hobbies outside of work, and what she is looking forward to in a post-pandemic world.
Congrats on your new role as Supervisor for Post Adoption Services! What has your career path been like with CH/LSS?
In the months leading up to beginning graduate school to earn my social work degree, I wanted to get some experience in the adoption world. Adoption was a field I knew I wanted to work in, but I honestly did not have much (any) experience with adoption at this point in my life.
I looked at a few different places to volunteer in the area and found CH/LSS. I met with a volunteer coordinator and started working in Post Adoption. At first, I was scanning recent adoption files for storage, but soon started writing summaries for adoptees that wanted to learn more about their birth family and story. I acutely remember the honor and sadness I felt in reading information about adoptees that they may never have access to because of openness laws or the wishes of birth parents.
As I entered graduate school, my volunteering came to an end as I needed to dedicate more time to schoolwork, but I knew that I would be back someday. As my second year in graduate school approached, I reached out to CH/LSS to see if they could make room to host me as an intern. The person that oversaw my volunteer work in Post Adoption vouched for me, I had an interview, and I was in!
I interned in Foster Care Adoption throughout my second year of graduate school; within weeks of graduation in 2015, a position opened, and I was hired! I worked as a foster care adoption social worker (helping families through the foster and adoption process) and a child specific recruiter (working for youth in foster care that need extra help in finding permanency) for five years. Over these years in Foster Care Adoption, my role has been focused on kids – advocating for them, focusing on their needs and wants, and supporting the adults that care for them. In this new role as supervisor for Post Adoption Services, I am most excited to bring what I’ve learned, take a step back, and see a more complete picture of the story of adoption and how it impacts all whom it touches.
What originally drew you to the field adoption? Do you have any personal experiences with adoption or foster care that you’d be willing to share?
After graduating with a degree in Government and International Relations, I really had no idea what specifically I wanted to do in life. At a graduation party, a friend of my mom’s mentioned they had adopted internationally, and they thought that being an adoption worker would be something that I would be good at. While I had never had a conversation with this individual before in my life, somehow what they said clicked. By the time they finished that sentence, I somehow knew that I should be an adoption worker. From there I had to research what type of degree I needed to work in adoption and slowly started moving forward toward this goal.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
For lots of adoption workers, the most rewarding part of our work is adoption day – being a witness to a parent’s promise to love and care for a child forever. Those are always rewarding, but for me, I find that the most rewarding moments come in difficult conversations with parents that are struggling, seeing the growth that someone has made and knowing that I was part of getting them there, and supporting colleagues that need a shoulder to cry on or a someone to laugh with. Adoption is so beautiful, but it is also hard. I find those moments of tensions and strain the most rewarding because they lead to growth and better understanding of ourselves and adoptees.
What is something you wish people knew about adoption or foster care that they might not?
Kids can understand so much more than us adults give them credit for. If we are honest and forthcoming with kids, they can understand even the most emotionally complex of situations. For example, if you are considering being a foster parent but you are worried the kids already in your home will struggle with a child you are fostering reunifies with their birth family and leaving your home, start a conversation with your child. My guess is that you will be surprised at the emotional intelligence and empathy of your child.
What is your best advice for prospective foster care or adoptive parents looking to start the process?
So much advice to share! Be honest with yourself (and your partner if you are in a relationship) about your motivations for adoption and explore why you are choosing to foster and adopt. Be forthcoming with your adoption worker. The better they understand you and your family, especially the difficult stuff, the better they can support you and prepare you as on your parenting journey. Practice humility. The professionals that I work with are a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Be open to their feedback and suggestions and continue to learn.
What are some of your favorite hobbies or interests outside of work?
I love gardening! In about February, the itch to start planning my garden starts. This year, I was fortunate as I had planned to start my garden from seeds and had all the equipment and supplies, I needed before there was a run on gardening supplies due to the pandemic and stay at home order. We grow enough to have fresh veggies in the summer, share some with the neighbors, and a dozen or so jars of pickled goods to enjoy in the winter. Does this mean I eat super healthy? No. As others can attest, I enjoy the process of experimenting with different techniques for better yield, worrying over my plants and their growth, and working on squirrel deterrent methods more than the bounty from the garden.
Have you read any books, watched any movies, or listened to any podcasts in the past few months that you’d recommend?
With a two and four-year-old, most of my reading is board books at this stage in my life! Some of our current favorites are Jam Jamboree, Good Night Loon, and A is for Activist.
Do you have anything you’re dreaming about doing post-pandemic?
Travel of course! And to go shopping in a store with my kids. And to meet up with a friend for a drink after work. And to drop by and spend time indoors with my friends and neighbors. And to be physically close to a friend that is struggling. And to visit my grandma without worry about what that visit could mean. There are so many things I am excited to do. I take consolation in that the less I do now, the more likely the people that I care about will be there when this pandemic is finally over.
What is something that always brings a smile to your face?
There was a young lady I worked with several years ago that I got to know very well as I was present for many difficult and joyous events in her life. Whenever I think of her, I see her smile, tender heart, and goofy sense of humor, and it reminds me of the joy that comes out of the difficult work we do. Also, cat memes.