Quietly Impacting Lives in Your Community

On Thursday, like several other non-profits, Catholic Charities North Dakota will participate in Giving Hearts Day, sponsored by the Dakota Medical Foundation.  It is a one day online give-a-thon that has blown up in the last several years benefiting those most in need.  Donations can be made on Feb 13 from Midnight to 11:59 PM at www.impactgiveback.org.

Let me tell you a little about our agency and why Giving Hearts Day is so important.  Catholic Charities North Dakota celebrated it’s 90th Birthday last year!  These 90 years have been filled with many accomplishments but most importantly, the great impact we have on the lives of so many individuals and families.

Last year, we finalized the adoptions of 145 children, including foster care adoption, International adoptions and infant adoptions.  We provided decision making counseling to 35 women facing an unexpected pregnancy to help them make the important decision to parent or to make an adoption plan.   We acted as Guardian for for 431 adults with developmental disabilities to help them make the best possible decisions for their independence and safety.  We provided counseling services for 401 people who struggled with issues in their lives such as depression, relationship issues, and sexual abuse.  All in all, we impact so many lives. Though much of our work is hidden behind the scenes, we know that  our quiet support makes the lives of many more productive, fulfilling and happy!

Consider a donation to Catholic Charities North Dakota on Giving Hearts Day on February 13.

National Adoption Day Preparations

The following blog post was written by Alicia King, LSW an adoption worker for the Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK)  Program.  Our agency is gearing up for National Adoption Day tomorrow!


19, 11, & 3.  WAIT… WHAT?…. 19 kids finalizing into 11 families and we have 3 days left to get things organized and gifts bought…..AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

This is what has been going through my head the past three days:

What do we get for each child?

What do we get for the families?

Is there enough money to do what we want?

How are we really going to celebrate these families and kids on this important day?

Stop, breathe, take a step back Alicia. It’s not about the gifts they get that day, or the balloons and decorations, or the food. It’s about children becoming part of their family, belonging to their family and having THEIR spot in THEIR family. This is the day that families become legal mom, dad and child! It’s about the lifetime of memories that these families will make together, the support they will give each other and the LOVE that will be shared for the rest of their lives.

National Adoption Day is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year. The goal is to finalize adoptions in all 50 states for the 100,000 kids that are waiting for their family. It’s about encouraging people to adopt and building collaboration among adoption agencies, courts, advocacy organizations and families.

So, although we want to make this day as special for these 19 children and 11 families as we can, the families have already made this day one of the most special days in their lives that will be remembered and cherished FOREVER!



Adoption Gets Personal

November is National Adoption Month.  It is the month where we celebrate the gift of adoption.  In its traditional sense, adoption usually means a birth mother having the selfless courage to make an adoption plan for a newborn child, knowing that an adoptive family could give them a much better life than they are prepared to provide at this point in their lives.  In our 90 years of existence, countless families have grown their families through adoption and seen their lives being transformed by love. We are proud of our tradition.

Today adoption is so much more.  Each year in North Dakota, over 100 children in foster care  are adopted permanently into families.  Last year 126 children had their adoptions finalized through the  Adults Adopting Special Kids program which is a collaborative effort of Catholic Charities North Dakota and PATH, ND Inc.  On Saturday, November 23, 21 children will have their adoptions finalized in Fargo as a part of  National Adoption Day.  Nationally, over 100,000 are expected to find their permanent place in a loving family on that day alone.

For me, adoption touches a very special place in my heart.  You see, I have a niece who was adopted over 20 years ago.  I’ll never forget the day she came into my life.  You see, my sister and brother- in- law had been on “the list” for several years.  (This was before open adoption existed)   I was an eighth grader and got called out of class to go to the office.  I was afraid I was in BIG trouble for something or something bad had happened.  Instead, my Mom was waiting on the phone to tell me that the day had come… my sister was getting a baby girl.   I was a little shocked and surprised, but very excited.  I didn’t have to wait for 9 months like everyone else, she would be here in just a couple of days meaning that I would be an aunt for the second time, but this time it was a girl!

From the very first time I met her, this little girl with a bald head and big eyes, I was in love!  She became my buddy and I made excuses to visit their house several times a week.  She even gets credit for my family nickname, Aunty Tooney, because she couldn’t quite say my name and to this day it still sticks!    It was so much fun to watch her grow up with all my other nieces and nephews to be great people.   In fairy tale form, she grew up, got married and is now a Mom herself to two beautiful children!   The blessings just keep multiplying!

Each day at Catholic Charities, we see families growing because of adoption.  So much work goes into the adoption process with home studies, home visits, legal proceedings, team meetings with county social workers, family assessments, child assessments, life books, etc… that the process seems to take forever.     But, you can always tell when an adoption worker is finalizing an adoption.  There is usually an extra spring in their step and their smile is a little wider all because of the abundance of love and acceptance adoption brings.  Which makes me smile because I remember the feeling and think of all the blessings in my life. :)

If you are interested in growing your family through adoption or any of our other services, call Catholic Charities North Dakota at 701-235-4457 or go to CatholicCharitiesND.org to learn more.   

Colleen Hardy, Director of Development and Public Relations
Catholic Charities North Dakota

Dealing with Uncertainty

New Blog Post from Janelle Miedema, Director of Counseling

We’ve been working with a group of New American (refugee) kids at a school in the community and we were discussing “triggers”.  Emotional triggers are reminders of painful stuff from the past than can lead to upsetting memories and intense feelings such as fear or anger.  Youth who grew up in countries where civil war made their lives dangerous almost daily may have many triggers.  We talked to the group about the increase of national guard in the community due to the possible flood and how they may have on camouflage clothing and military looking vehicles.   We believed it was possible that any signs of military could be a strong emotional trigger for them. 

 Have you found that when you hear the news about the flood maybe you get a little knot in your stomach?  Do your neck muscles tense up?  Are you sleeping restlessly these past few weeks?  These may be your emotional “triggers” from having to deal with many years of possible and real flood fights.  We are very resilient in the Red River Valley and most of us cope and move forward fairly well.  However, if you find yourself feeling a little more edgy, slightly depressed, or having any other physical symptoms you may want to consider whether or not you are dealing with some emotional “triggers”.   It’s important to first recognize that this may be going on and then think about taking care of yourself.

Good self care includes:

  • Eating healthy and mindfully
  • Exercise (you don’t have to be a body builder – gentle walking, biking etc. can do wonders for the mood)
  • Prayer, meditation, relaxation
  • Massages
  • Call your friends and family and  tell them you care.
  • Think about all the things you have to be grateful for – this creates an attitude of joy and contentment.

 For more information about resilience, visit the Red River Resilience website at www.RedRiverResilience.com

Sometimes It’s When You Least Expect It!

When you loook back over our 90 years of service to North Dakotans, one program has been a cornerstone for all of these years.  The Pregancy, Parenting and Adoption Services at Catholic Charities North Dakota  have made parenthood a reality for thousand of couples through domestic and international adoptions.  Fun Fact:  Did you know that Catholic Charities North Dakota is the only Hague Accredited adoption agency in North Dakota for Intercountry Adoptions?

In addition they have  provided countless hours of support to those facing an unexpected pregnancy, no matter if their decision is to make an adoption plan or to parent their new child.  For more information go to www.catholicchariitesnd.org.

Tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 14) is not only Valentine’s Day but also Giving Hearts Day.  Double your donation at www.impactgiveback.org tomorrow only!!! 

The following story is just one of the many we get the joy in participating in each year..

When Bill and Karin met online, she was a kindergarten teacher and he was a Master Sergeant in the Air Force.  They started dating and were married a few months later.

After trying several infertility treatments, they pursued an identified adoption which ended in heartbreak for them when the birth mother changed her mind after they had the baby for eleven days.

Despite this setback, they wanted to try again and came to Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Services of Catholic Charities North Dakota to begin their journey.  For many couples, the wait for a match is fraught with worry and anxiety but Bill and Karin had an additional and unanticipated worry: a flood. Their community was threatened by rising flood waters, not once, but twice.  The second time, their home was destroyed and the couple began plans to rebuild.   While evacuating from their home, the couple joked, “Now, we’ll probably get the call about the baby.”  Two weeks later they received the call that they had been waiting for-they had been selected!

Bill and Karin kept in touch with Heather, the birth mother, frequently throughout her pregnancy and were nervous to meet her when they arrived for their daughter’s birth.  Everyone was surprised when the doctor said they had a little girl because previous ultrasounds had indicated that it was a boy.  While still in the hospital, they had professional pictures taken of the baby and gave a set to the birthmother to start their open relationship out on the right foot.   Since Ali’s birth, Bill and Karin have remained in touch with Heather and are planning future visits.  Looking back on the process, Karin reflects, “I think God was really clearing a path for us to have Ali.  We learned so much from the first adoption experience that we were really better prepared for Ali.”

In 2012, Pregnancy Parenting and Adoption Services worked with 58 birthparents, and placed 17 children into families.

A dream come true!


As Giving Hearts Day approaches, we are giving you a glimpse inside each of our programs and what impact we make on communities across North Dakota.   Consider donating to Catholic Charities North Dakota on Giving Hearts Day on February 14 by simply logging on to www.impactgiveback.org and selecting Donate!

The Guardianship Workers from Guardianship Services at Catholic Charities North Dakota go above and beyond for their clients who are adults with developmental disabilities  Often times the clients are unable to make their own decisions about their health, housing, finances or  other aspects of their lives.  We serve as court appointed guardians acting in their best interest.  Sometimes it’s not the legal decisions that make the biggest impact on our clients, but in this case, it was making a dream come true!

Carrie*, 29 years old, lived in a group home in Fargo for several years.  Carrie liked her home, the people she lived with, and the staff who cared for her but she dreamt of having her own apartment.  She wanted to decorate her way, have a pet perhaps, and have a place to call her own.


Carrie’s abilities in dealing with anxiety and depression made achieving this dream difficult.  Carrie’s team, along with her Guardian from Guardianship Services of Catholic Charities North Dakota, met for her annual meeting and Carrie’s Guardian asked the team to put things in place to help Carrie achieve her goals of living in her own place and of working in the community.


Carrie’s team wanted her to succeed, so they put the necessary steps in place to help Carrie reach her goals.  Tasks often taken for granted, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting her funds, or using the city bus would be stressors that could hinder Carrie.  A Behavioral Specialist, along with her Psychiatrist, met with Carrie and prepared her for these outside stressors so that she would be successful in living on her own.


The Vocational Director met with Carrie and helped place her in the perfect community job, assisting the Activity Director in a local nursing home, which matched her needs and strengths so she could be successful.  In just over 6 months, Carrie had moved into her own apartment and was working hard at her new job.  All of this was made possible by Carrie’s determination and her Guardian and team’s ability to help her make her wishes come true.  Next stop for Carrie….the pet store for the pet she wants. 


Carrie is one of 427 wards served by Guardianship Workers of Catholic Charities North Dakota in 2012.

*Names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

Make Valentine’s Day more meaningful!!!

Today while people in eastern North Dakota are watching the snow fall and listening to the winds blow, we hope that hearts are turning to warm thoughts….  Valentine’s Day!!  Valentine’s Day is on Thursday, February 14, for us, this means its Giving Hearts Day.  Giving Hearts Day is an online day of giving sponsored by the Dakota Medical Foundation that gives donors the opportunity to double their donations.  It is easy!!  simple  All you have to do is log onto www.impactgiveback.org  on February 14, click on donate and  and make a donation of $10 or more to Catholic Charities.  While you are there, you might want to look at the other great non-profits joining on this day of giving.  The goal is to raise $2 Million on Giving Hearts Day!

Donations made to Catholic Charities North Dakota that day will be made to support the important work of our programs which include:

  • Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Services
  • Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK)
  • Guardianship Services
  • Counseling Services

Over the past year, we have impacted the lives of over 6,600 people across North Dakota by helping people and changing lives.  Watch the blog over the next four days for stories demonstrating what a difference we make in the lives of our clients and their famililes.  Find more info anytime at www.CatholicCharitiesND.org or call us at 1-800-450-4457.

Remember to make your Valentine’s Day something more meaningful, donate online at www.impactiveback.org!!

An Intern’s Perspective

As we have interns come to work with our Social Workers, we love to get their perspective on the work that goes on at Catholic Charities North Dakota.  This semester we are lucky to have Jessica Kempenich a Social Work student from MSU-M with us in the Fargo office.  Here is her perspective…

My name is Jessica and I am interning at Catholic Charities ND with the Adults Adopting Special Needs (AASK) program for spring 2013. Coming into the program I did not know much about the adoption process. For my internship I wanted something with in child welfare, and the AASK program seemed a perfect fit. Over the first few weeks I experienced just how much goes on behind the scenes through the course of an adoption.

My first day here was getting to know everyone that worked in the AASK program, as well as those in their Guardianship program that Catholic Charities also provides. Over the course of my first week I learned how to collect information to make subsidy packets, which are child specific information that is given the county and the state in which the child resides. I was also  was able to accompany my field instructor to  Cass County Social Services for team meeting discussing important matters that obtained to a child.

The beginning of my second week allowed me to go to meet a foster child to talk with him and his foster family. I was also instructed on how to fill out a Child Adoption Assessment, which allows families to learn more about the children they inquire on. The week wrapped up with a monthly AASK staff meeting that I was able to attend.

The duration of my internship has allowed me a glimpse into the AASK adoption procedure and what that means to be an adoption social worker. I am very excited to continue learning about all that AASK has to offer and the adoption process.

Jessica Kempenich

AASK Intern

Unadoptable? No such thing!

Catholic Charities North Dakota partners with the Dave Thomas Foundation for the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program within our AASK Program.  This means that we receive a grant from the David Thomas Foundation to hire a full time recruiter for kids in the foster care system.  The following video has a great way of showing what a difference a permanent home can make to a child.  For more information on AASK and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids call Sonja McLean at 701-235-4457 or email her at smclean@catholiccharitiesnd.org!



A New Start for Jon

Counseling Services of Catholic Charities North Dakota sees clients of all ages.  This story below by Mary Jo Andersen is just one of the many success stories from one of our clients who along with this family saw positive results from the caring, understanding and knowledgeable counselors at our agency.   They accept insurance and EAP contracts and offer a sliding fee scale to provide service to those who can’t afford to pay.

When Jon* bit a classmate and shoved and kicked his teacher when she tried to intervene, it was the final straw.  His aggression in the classroom had been gradually building, from ripping one child’s artwork, taunting another child, to being reported for fighting on the playground several times.  His classmates avoided him.  Notes had been sent home yet his disruptive behavior continued.  On this day, his mother was called to the school and told that Jon was being suspended.

As she talked with the principal and the teacher, she broke down and disclosed that she had similar challenges with him at home.  She constantly monitored his aggression towards his younger brother to avoid someone being hurt, and he was disobedient and disrespectful with her.

She confided that Jon’s young life had included physical abuse by his father and sexual abuse by his grandfather.  As a result, he and his younger brother were removed from their father’s home and placed in multiple foster homes.  They suffered instability and chaos in their lives before moving to North Dakota and being reunited with her after she had successfully completed treatment at an addictions center. 

The principal referred her to the Counseling Services of Catholic Charities North Dakota.  Jon began weekly individual therapy and started Parent-Child Interactive Therapy with his mother.  Later, his younger brother, mother, and he attended family counseling.  After several months of play therapy, Jon learned how to express his feelings verbally.

With the help of his mom and the therapist, he applied his new skills in the classroom.  He was able to decrease his outbursts in class and learned to express his feelings through play instead of yelling and threatening others.  He even was more focused with the schoolwork and successfully completed the school year.  In addition he had become friends with several of his classmates.

The services provided by Catholic Charities Counseling Services have a life altering impact on our clients.  Our comprehensive approach to mental health care is designed to not only treat the individual but to address the family as well. 

* Names  and some details have been changed to protect the identity of our clients.

Counseling Services just one of the services provided at Catholic Chariites North Dakota. Our other programs include Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption Services, Guardianship Services and Adults Adopting Special Kids.  Since 1923 we have served Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  For more information or to donate please go to www.catholiccharitiesnd.org