BELCOURT This year's 2014 Angel in Adoption award winner Ina Olson already had two biological children when she decided to become a foster parent about six years ago.
Olson, a social worker who has worked with the Turtle Mountain Child Welfare office for two decades and is currently director of the Turtle Mountain Child Welfare and Family Service Program, said there was a great need for foster families who were able to take emergency placements.
She started out as that kind of foster parent, the one who got the call in the middle of the night so kids in a crisis situation would have somewhere to go.
Ina Olson and her children.
One night she got a call to take a baby girl as a foster placement. She ended up adopting the girl when she was a year old. Now her adopted daughter is three years old. Later, she became a foster parent to a boy whom she adopted. He will turn four this week.
She has no foster children at the moment. "I've kind of got my hands full with the two three-year-olds!" said Olson.
But Olson said there is still a real need for foster homes across the state. Children on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, like other foster children, need loving homes and permanency that will help them succeed. Turtle Mountain is fortunate to have a good network of foster homes, said Olson. She said Native American foster homes are needed for Native American kids in non-reservation communities located across the state, too.
There are different steps required to get licensed, and Olson said it can also be hard on foster parents to send home foster children they have come to love. But the goal is to reunite children with their birth families whenever possible.
Olson will be recognized for her life-long work to improve the lives of foster and adopted children during a ceremony with advocates from across the country in September.
"I'm still in shock that I got (the award)," said Olson, who was nominated for the award by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.
"Ina is an inspiration. She has dedicated her personal and professional life to caring for foster and adoptive children on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation," said Heitkamp. "Ina changes children's lives because she understands that if a kid grows up in a loving and stable home, it has huge impact on that child's future. Not only does she give so many children homes, she's also helping set them on a path forward for success. Ina's commitment and love for these children knows no bounds, and I'm honored to nominate her as an Angel in Adoption and give her the recognition she very much deserves."
Heitkamp called Olson a hero and said she had a level of selflessness that made her an easy selection for the nomination. She also heard about many other wonderful adoptive families in North Dakota.
Angels in Adoption is the signature program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institution, which provides an opportunity for members of Congress to honor the good work of constituents who have enriched the lives of foster and adopted children. Each year the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute holds a three day event for Angels in Adoption awardees, followed by a gala, in Washington, D.C. Events this year will be held September 15 to 17.