For 36 years, HOPE Adoption in Oak Park Heights has been seeking to break down barriers to adoption in the St. Croix Valley. Last month it merged with a similar Edina-based organization, Crossroads Adoption Services, to continue serving families as EVOLVE Adoption & Family Services.
“Both agencies have been around for almost the exact same amount of time, and we were really founded on those premises of breaking down barriers,” said Nicole Deters Spader, executive director of EVOLVE. “It’s really a desire to break down the barriers of adoption when it comes to class, ethnicity, gender, marital status, economic status, sexual orientation, religion, race.”
Before the merger, Spader had served as the executive director of HOPE, which she said was formed by concerned citizens at a time when barriers to adoption abounded.
“It started really as kind of a grass-roots organization,” Spader said. “There (were) a lot of barriers put forth for people wanting to adopt. So you saw single-parents having a hard time being allowed to adopt, financial or religious barriers put forth, whether it was by domestic institutions or international institutions. We were founded … on being able to provide services that are non-biased and completely inclusive of any every dynamic that you can think of.”
Since its founding in 1978, HOPE has helped more than 2,000 children from 52 countries, including the U.S., find families through adoption.
Crossroads began two years earlier as a child-placing agency licensed by the state of Minnesota. It focused on working with children and families not being served by other agencies. It helped more than 4,500 children find permanent families. About 25 percent of the children were from the U.S.
According to Spader, the merger with Crossroads came naturally, because the two organizations had worked closely together for years. Both agencies were licensed in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and they sometimes referred clients to each other.
“Through many of the conversations it just became very clear that … if we came together, the programs were separate enough, and also similar enough, that would have a more robust agency,” Spader said, stressing that it was not a situation where one strong agency swooped in to rescue a weaker one.
The newly formed EVOLVE offers a variety of services to support families, in addition to domestic and international adoption help. Services include a foster care program, pregnancy services, education and support groups.
“We don’t want our children just to survive, we want them to thrive in the foster care system,” Spader said.
She said EVOLVE’s approach is also unique because it understands the need for flexibility because circumstances vary widely.
“There’s not going to set of expectations or a set process that everyone has to adhere to,” she said.
Over the years, the traditional family has changed, she said, and people adopt for a variety of reasons.
“It’s not necessarily because somebody’s having fertility issues,” she said. “It’s very much a desire to expand families and a desire to provide children in need a place to grow up.”
In the end, giving children a safe, loving home is Spader’s goal.
“It’s a global approach to the ever-evolving family,” she said.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]