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 Kelli Hanson, Post-Adoption Worker, Korea Program Manager, and Tour Korea Program Manager, based out of our St. Paul office. As an adoptee herself, Kelli brings a unique and valuable lens to her work with CH/LSS. “Getting to work with my own community and seeing the automatic relief and feeling of support that people get when working with someone who is ‘one of them.’ There is already an unspoken understanding and empathy when you work within your own community,” Kelli says. Read more about Kelli below!
What is your current role with CH/LSS and what are some of your primary responsibilities?
I actually have a few roles! Titles include Post-Adoption Worker, Korea Program Manager, and Tour Korea Program Manager. I work with Korean post-adoption cases, current Korean adoptions, and Tour Korea as well—all things Korea for CH/LSS!
What originally drew you to the field of foster care and adoption?
I was adopted through CH/LSS back in the 90s from Korea. I also have friends and multiple family members who are adopted as well. Along with my close personal experience with adoption, I’ve always been surrounded by adoption. It wasn’t my “plan” to work in adoption; for the longest time and into my freshman year of college, I was thinking of med school, but when I found out how many science classes I had to take, I realized that path wasn’t for me. The next enticing option was Psychology. I still had no idea what I was doing after graduating from undergrad and the first time that I applied for the position of an Adoption Worker for CH/LSS, I did not get a callback (☹). I worked for a year and a half elsewhere and then applied again. I got the job at that time and started out in Foster Care Adoption working with families and children in foster care in early 2018. I took on my post-adoption role a couple of years later and most recently, the Korea and Tour Korea Program Manager roles earlier this year.
What advice would you give to families thinking of beginning their adoption journey?
Listen to adoptees! The “normal” ones, the angry ones, the quiet ones, the funny ones, all of them. Get to know the history of adoption and all about those that are a part of the adoption constellation. Learning is one of the most important things that we have in life, and the Internet has opened a whole world for all of us. Do your research and connect with others! If you don’t like reading, there are audiobooks, podcasts, presentations, and videos!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Getting to work with my own community and seeing the automatic relief and feeling of support that people get when working with someone who is “one of them.” There is already an unspoken understanding and empathy when you work within your own community. I also want to make sure that any type of adoption agency and/or program is influenced and includes adoptees as staff, management, and board members. It’s very important to me that despite what has changed for the better and what continues to need to be changed that adoptees are centered in adoption work.
Listen to adoptees! The ‘normal’ ones, the angry ones, the quiet ones, the funny ones, all of them. Get to know the history of adoption and all about those that are a part of the adoption constellation. –Kelli Hanson, adoptee
One of your roles includes being our Tour Korea Program Manager! Tell us a little bit about Tour Korea and what makes this travel experience so special for adoptees and their families.
After canceling our Tour Korea for three years in a row due to COVID, we are now traveling in June 2023! Something that makes our Tour really great is being able to travel with other adoptees and adoptive families for the comradery as well as support. You’re able to travel as a group to your/the adoptee’s homeland, which can be very emotional. Adoptive parents can count on support from each other throughout the trip, and adoptees have a support system with each other, which is something that makes this trip extra special. It is led by me, a Korean adoptee, and includes further support staff and volunteers to support everyone in each and every way. We also take care of everything (except for flights, but we can help with that, too, if you want!) so the trip can be about the experience rather than all of the work that goes into planning for international travel.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of working in the field of adoption as an adoptee?
As I mentioned above, it’s really great to see the impact of the work that I do every day and being able to do work with those in my own community as a Korean adoptee. It also definitely comes with its own challenges as well. This job can bring up a lot of emotions within myself, sometimes when I least expect it. It’s important for me to identify when that happens and work through it on my own, with friends/family, and with professionals. Being aware of all of this and going through life’s journey as an adoptee always has its ups and downs!
Who inspires you – personally or professionally? What qualities does that person have that you find inspiring?
It’s going to sound cheesy, but my dad inspires me. Although he can be reserved, like any Minnesotan dad can be, he is incredibly kind, patient, caring, and hard-working. He always goes out of his way to help people without forgetting about himself in the process. He is personable and down-to-earth and makes sure people feel included in any situation that he’s in. He can be pretty funny, too, and always knows where to get a good pizza.
Switching gears to life outside of work — what does an ideal weekend look like for you?
For sure starting the day off with sleeping in! Then, I like making myself breakfast and cleaning up a little bit before getting out and about. That could mean anything from going on a walk to going to Ikea or going to watch a movie at the movie theater. I enjoy trying new restaurants or just eating out in general and visiting all the outdoor parks and lakes that Minnesota has to offer!
What is the last book, movie, podcast, or TV series that you enjoyed so much you’re telling everyone you know to check it out?
I watch way too much TV and movies! That’s hard to choose . . . I watch a wide variety of things, so if you’re interested in mockumentaries, I’d recommend the show Abbott Elementary and if you’re interested in thriller/sci-fi, I’d recommend the show Dark on Netflix.
What is something that always brings a smile to your face?
My cats! I have 2 cats, Rorie and Luna. How can they not put a smile on anyone’s face? Sometimes they get in the way during work, but I can always count on them for some cuddles and relaxation.