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Minnesota celebrates massive family reunion

Red Wing citizen Marilyn May adopted her children, Erica and Derek, through Lutheran Social Service in 1969 and 1973.

“It has been a really powerful experience,” May said.

When she first held her daughter, who was 2 months old, May said she felt an instant love and deep connection.

“I held that little baby in my arms, and I couldn’t have loved her more if I had carried her myself,” she said.

The adoption process was started for her second child almost immediately after receiving their daughter.

The wait for her daughter was only four months; whereas, it took four years from beginning interviews until her son’s arrival home; he was just over 3 weeks old at the time.

May credited the difference in situation for young unmarried pregnant woman as well as the increase acceptability of adoption as primary reasons for the longer placement time.

“Both instances, it was a source of great joy for me,” she said.

On Sunday, May plans to attend Minnesota’s “largest family reunion,” which celebrates her family’s and others’ adoption journeys throughout the state.

Wrapping up “Celebrate Minnesota Adoption Week,” Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Children’s Home Society of Minnesota will host the Adoption Family Reunion Sept. 21 in St. Paul at Luther Seminary. The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is free and open to the public.

The reunion will feature “Share Your Story” video booths, authors’ tent featuring adoption books, history exhibit, children’s activity zone, cultural dance performances, adoption resources, food trucks, family photos and a performance by “Riders on the Orphan Train.”

“I think the reunion will be a fine time to celebrate adoption and to be among many others who have experienced it,” May said.

Families needed

According to Jodi Harpstead, chief executive officer for both Lutheran Social Service and Children’s Home Society, there is a need for families especially from older children, sibling groups, those with medical or developmental special needs and also children with histories of abuse or neglect.

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Since 1865, more than 46,000 children have been adopted thanks to the combined 275 years of service of Minnesota’s Lutheran Social Service and the Children’s Home Society.

“Our Minnesota neighbors, for 150 years, have stepped forward to provide stable, loving families for children who need them,” Harpstead said. “In many ways, adoption has come full circle from our pioneering outreach decades ago to include older children and sibling groups.”

Local roots

Lutheran Social Service history traces back to Pastor Eric Norelius and his Vasa congregation who opened their doors to serve orphaned or abandoned children beginning in 1865.

This outreach work expanded over the years to include adoption to ensure that children grow up in nurturing, permanent homes.

The Children’s Home Society of Minnesota dates back to the early efforts of the Rev. Edward P. Savage, whose mission, beginning in 1889, was to help children of the orphan train movement.

Lutheran Social Service and the Children’s Home Society offer both adoption and post-adoption services.

Gov. Mark Dayton issued a proclamation that Sept. 15-21 be recognized as “Celebrating Minnesota Adoption Week.”