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 Stacy Zignego, a Post Adoption Social Worker who works out of our St. Paul office.
Her supervisor, Susan, says, “Stacy’s genuine care and compassion are so appreciated by both clients and colleagues alike. Stacy consistently demonstrates respect for each client’s circumstances and brings positive energy and humor to bring out the best in every situation. Her positivity and authenticity inspire all those around her, making her an incredible colleague and amazing social worker!”
Stacy has played an important role advocating for inclusivity at CH/LSS and was on the committee that helped our agency get recognized as an Innovator in LGBTQ Inclusion by the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families Project. Outside of work, Stacy loves spending time with her family and two adorable cats, Tapioca and Izzy.
What is your current role with CH/LSS and what are some of your primary responsibilities?
I am a Post Adoption Social Worker. I do both domestic and international post adoption. For domestic, I do things like search and outreach, background reports, and assist adopted adults with getting their original birth records. For international, I help with travel and correspondence with our Korea, Ethiopia, and Colombia programs. For the past two years, I have created the curriculum for our Saturday groups for adopted kids and I facilitate the Lollipop group for kids ages 4-8. This past year I was the Adoption Camp Coordinator for our summer Adoption Day Camp, which unfortunately we had to cancel due to COVID-19. I get a lot of variety, which keeps things interesting!
Although Adoption Day Camp was canceled, do you have any activities you’d recommend for kids and families to do at home?
What a strange summer this has turned out to be! Yes, there are activities from camp that families could do at home. We just hosted a webinar, Practical Tips & Activities for Your Stay-At-Home Summer, on this subject, and I tried to include as many fun, simple activities as I could. Scavenger hunts are always fun. Kids love little prizes, so make sure there is a reward for finding the most things on the list! This time of COVID-19 has brought back something in my house we had lost over the years—family dinners. We have been sitting together and talking almost every night since we aren’t all running in different directions. This is easily my favorite family activity!
What originally drew you to the field of foster care and adoption? Do you have any personal experiences with adoption or foster care?
When I was three years old, my sister joined our family through adoption. She was born in Seoul, South Korea. I have two younger brothers who joined our family by birth after my sister. After my brothers, my parents started the adoption process again and we received a referral for a little boy in Guatemala. I remember his picture hanging on the fridge and we were all getting excited to meet him. Right before he was to join our family, we were told his birth mother had returned to the orphanage to get him. We were all heartbroken. My mom could not bring herself to go through the process again after that. When I was in 8th grade, my family fostered a young pregnant woman who needed a place to stay. She ended up giving birth to twin girls prematurely and we all helped with their care. I still can’t wrap my head around how we all lived in our little house with one bathroom! But it was so much fun helping to take care of those tiny babies. They are grown, married women now, and my foster sister is a grandma!
What is something you wish people knew about foster care and adoption that they might not?
I would like people to know that there are a lot of kids in foster care who identify as LGBTQ. They need parents who will be accepting and supportive. I would also like to let LGBTQ adults know that they can adopt through CHLSS. I was on the committee that helped to get our agency recognized as an Innovator in LGBTQ Inclusion by the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families Project. Shortly after this, my daughter, who is gay, was talking about how she felt she would never be a mom. I couldn’t believe it! I said, “Why do you think I have been working so hard to make sure our agency is inclusive of the LGBTQ community? So you, and any other LGBTQ people who want to can be a parent through adoption.” She laughed and said, “Oh yeah! You did do that!”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Helping birth parents and adoptees connect is a wonderful part of my job. However, the most rewarding part for me is being able to help people fill-in pieces of their birth story and history. I worked with an 85-year-old adopted adult who just wanted to know her full birth name and the name of her birth mother. I was helping her through the (sometimes lengthy) process and she suddenly became very ill. She was hospitalized and the family knew she didn’t have much time. Her grandson contacted me and thankfully we were far enough along in the process that we were able to get her original birth record overnighted to her. The family strongly believed she needed that last piece of her puzzle to be able to let go and she passed away soon after being read the names on her birth record.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts in the past few months that you’d recommend?
Since you asked, I will have to plug my daughter’s podcast! It is called COVID Operation and is produced through StoryArk.org. Story Ark is a great organization based in Stillwater. They help students collaborate and create podcasts, short films, and a literary magazine. Her current podcast is about how to survive and thrive during quarantine. It is aimed at tweens and teens, co-stars her cat Tapioca, and features interviews with some big-wigs in performing and creative arts. She has interviewed a Hollywood writer, a TV actor, and a current Broadway actor/singer, as well as other authors, directors, and musicians!
What is something that always brings a smile to your face?
Our cats, Tapioca and Izzy, when they lay on their backs in the middle of the hallway or kitchen with their chubby tummies out! No matter what I am doing, I have to stop and rub the tummy!