In our Staff Spotlight Series, we catch up with the talented, dedicated, and compassionate individuals who help make everything our organization does possible. This month we’re featuring Elizabeth Bohlken, Education Manager, Foster Care & Adoption. Elizabeth always knew she wanted to work with families. “I really enjoy working on programs where you can see the immediate benefit. Whether that is education to help prepare someone to parent, a support group that helps a caregiver get through a rough week, or an event that connects kids with a shared life experience.” Read more about Elizabeth’s work and life below!
How long have you worked at CH/LSS?
I started working at CH/LSS in October 2017, so almost six years! I started as an adoption family worker, primarily working with foster care adoption families, and eventually also worked with infant adoption families.
What is your current role and what are some of your primary responsibilities?
I am currently the Education Manager for foster care and adoption, and I am primarily responsible for overseeing the agency’s Permanency Support Service contract with DHS. This includes Foster Care and Adoption Education Classes, Connect2Connect community events, and numerous support groups. Last year I also took over the management of our Adoption Day Camp and the implementation of Child and Restraint System (C.A.R.S.) classes.
What originally drew you to the field of foster care/adoption?
I always knew I wanted to work with families. In school, I became very interested in reproductive health and the impact of miscarriage and infertility on the family dynamic. This led me to interview a former CH/LSS supervisor and opened the door to the adoption world for me. It has turned out to be a great fit!
What is something everyone should know about foster care and/or adoption that they might not?
Each type of adoption (domestic infant, international, foster care) comes with its own unique process and challenge. It is a great idea to learn about all the types of adoption available to determine what is going to be the best fit for your family. I think a lot of people choose an adoption program because they know someone else who did it or has a narrow view of what adoption is, but end up realizing a different type of adoption might be a better fit.
What advice would you give to families thinking of beginning their adoption journey?
Learn all your options for foster care and adoption! One of the main programs I oversee is the education for foster care and foster care adoption. We do not expect families to come to class knowing that they want to adopt or provide foster care. If you are just starting to consider these avenues, we will give you an introduction to a broad range of topics and you can take some time (up to five years) to decide whether you would like to proceed with an application.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I really enjoy working on programs where you can see the immediate benefit. Whether that is education to help prepare someone to parent, a support group that helps a caregiver get through a rough week, or an event that connects kids with a shared life experience. Reading the evaluations for services and seeing how much they really mean to people warms my heart and makes me proud of the work the education team is doing.
Tell us more about the new structure for Foster Care & Adoption Education Classes that will be launching this fall! How are they changing and what can attendees expect?
Some big changes are coming and I am really excited that, starting this fall, we will be able to offer families more options for learning, both in terms of the learning style and frequency. In addition to our traditional 2-day in-person class, we will also offer a 2-week hybrid class and 4-week virtual class. Families will be able to select into a size-limited cohort and will work through the curriculum with the other families in their cohort. After completing their initial education, families will continue to receive optional educational opportunities and stay connected with their cohort for one year.
Switching gears to life outside of work – what does an ideal weekend look like for you?
Haha, that is a hard question to answer! There’s my “ideal” weekend and then there is my realistic ideal weekend. Realistically I would love for my toddler to let me sleep until 8:00 a.m. and then have a nice, calm breakfast. I enjoy exploring Minnesota and so taking some time to check out a new park or museum I haven’t been to sounds great. Oh, and somewhere where I can get some good coffee!
If you could travel anywhere in the world in the next year, where would you go and what would you do?
Another hard question! There are so many places that I would love to visit but I think somewhere along the Mediterranean coast is my top choice. I decorated my daughter’s room with a Mediterranean theme, so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at gorgeous beach pictures in the past few years.
What is the last book, movie, or TV series you loved?
I love almost every book by Susanna Kearsley! She blends present-day with historical fiction and a little bit of sci-fi (think Outlander style) just beautifully. My top three books are The Firebird, The Winter Sea, and Season of Storms.
What is something that always brings a smile to your face?
My toddler’s laugh, it’s just the best.