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Adopting Hope

Social Work Alumnae Leads National Adoption Program

Melinda Kline poses outside Benton Hall

Melinda Kline, bsw ’05, msw ’08, poses in front of Benton Hall. Photo by Jeremy Wangler

From The Ichabod - Winter 2024
By Annie Flachsbarth

As national project director for AdoptUSKids, Melinda Kline, bsw ’05, msw ’08, has witnessed the importance and impact adoption can have on families. Although many people have connections to adoption and foster care, for Kline, the connection is deeply personal.

Before Kline was born, her mother – driven by circumstances beyond her control – placed two children for adoption. Kline didn’t learn about her adopted siblings until after her mother died years later, and she eventually found and built relationships with them. She was already working as a social worker, but the experience further solidified her as a passionate adoption advocate.

Early in her career, Kline received a bachelor’s degree from Ottawa University in human services and went to work at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, assisting with the benefits and eligibility side of the agency. She decided she wanted to be a social worker, and the state invested in her to go to Washburn.

“The social work department at Washburn is pretty phenomenal,” Kline said. “The classes were small, and there are a lot of non-traditional students – especially in human services and social work departments – so I always felt like I fit right in.”

She worked for the Kansas Children’s Service League as a licensed social worker while obtaining her master’s and clinical license. She served as a Washburn adjunct faculty member from 2010-18.

“I always told students to pay attention to who you’re in class with. You never know when you might need to reach out to part of your Washburn network to help a family get services they need,” Kline said.

While at KCSL, she had the opportunity to supervise the Adopt Kansas Kids program. There she helped in child welfare, infant adoption and foster families.

“I discovered that adoptions were my love – especially adoption from foster care.”

In 2018, she became the deputy director of permanency at the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

“At that point, I quit all my side gigs – no more therapy on the side, no more Washburn teaching – because working in DCF and being over foster care and adoption in Kansas just needed all my attention,” Kline said.

In 2023, fueled by her passion for helping children find permanent homes, Kline accepted the role with AdoptUSKids, a federally funded cooperative agreement between the Children’s Bureau and the National Adoption Association. She works to raise awareness at a national level about the need for adoptive families – particularly advocating for the often-overlooked teenagers in foster care.

In addition to her personal connection with adoption, Kline also knows how life-changing a permanent connection can make in a child’s life. Before having her own children, she took in her teenage nephew and raised him through graduation and adulthood.

“Part of my Cherokee culture is to take care of family and extended family,” Kline said. “But I also saw what can happen to kids when they don’t have permanent families. We are never too old to need our family.”

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions

 

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