Be The Spark


  Answering the call and caring for vulnerable children.

       November 17, 2018

CEU Certificate Available

Dr. David and Jayne Schooler began the journey into the world of foster care and adoption in 1978, with a simple question by a youth in their church. “Would you become my foster parents?”  They answered yes and that changed the direction of their lives.

David has served in the pastoral and counseling ministry for over 40 years. Much of his current focus is on working with adults who have a lifetime impact of early childhood trauma. Both David and Jayne are recognized nationally and internationally as speakers/trainers in the field of adoption and foster care. Serving full time with Back2Back Ministries their international work takes them regularly to India, Nigeria, Mexico and Haiti.

Jayne is the author/co-author of eight books in the field of child welfare including Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Parents and Parenting in Transracial Adoption.  Recently, two of her books have been translated into Russian and Polish. David and Jayne are parents by birth and adoption and grandparents of four.

Dr. David Schooler, Th.D., and Jayne Schooler MBS/BA, Back2Back Ministries

Introducing Our Main Stage Guests

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6-Time MN Music Award Winner, Reneé Austin, calls her music a mix of Soul/Gospel/R&B with a hint of Texas. The Texas, Hill Country raised, Minneapolis singer-songwriter rose to national attention in 2003 with her first international release, "Sweet Talk" singing a duet with 3-time Grammy Winner, Delbert McClinton. Reneé has shared the stage with Los Lobos, Keb Mo, Tower of Power, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Blues Traveler and more. Soon after appearing on Blues Diva's with Morgan Freeman, Austin's singing career was halted just as her star was rising. Tragedy struck when during a surgical procedure, Austin's left vocal nerve was paralyzed. Unable to sing or speak above a whisper, Austin began a new life without music.  She became a Pastor and a Mama to son Gabriel from Ethiopia. Then Austin experienced a series of true miracles and her voice returned. Her brand  new Album, "Songbirds & Angels", hit the streets with a sold-out Album Release at The Dakota.


Kaycee and her husband Pete love three things: Jesus, kids, and stories. (Also, each other. Obviously.) For a long time, they have dreamed about how to change the narrative around adopting from foster care, especially within faith communities. In the spring of 2016, they were inspired by a ministry called America’s Kids Belong, and they started dreaming about a ministry that told the stories of kids who need families here in Minnesota. Five months later, Reel Hope was born. Reel Hope started in September of 2016 with one mission: A forever family for every child. We knew two things:

  • God cares about kids who need families.

  • There’s nothing more powerful than a story.

So we set off to tell the stories of Minnesota kids who are waiting to be adopted. We started making two-minute profile videos of these kids and sharing them with the world.

Kaycee Stanley, Executive Director, The Reel Hope Project

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Hi! My name is Lizzy LaFond. I’m your average crazy busy high school student. When I’m not doing school work, I’m busy doing activities like musicals, church groups, and of course- advocating adoption! I love that God gave me all these opportunities to tell people my story and be a positive impact in the adoption community. I hope to inspire people to look into “The Option of Adoption!” I also hope to remind every single adoptee that you are beautifully made in God’s image, and God has a plan for you!


Lizzie LaFond, 2018 Miss Perham Outstanding Teen 

MN Adopt HELP Program Speakers

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Heather’s social work career started in 1993.  Over the years the bulk of her work experiences have been within the adoption community intermingled with five years spent living, teaching and traveling abroad. 

Before coming to the HELP Program, her work focused on supporting birth and adoptive parents with grief, loss and open adoption relationships as well as educating and supporting parents adopting children with traumatic backgrounds and attachment disruptions. 



Gail Garner Swenson, MA (HELP Specialist)

Gail joined the HELP Program in March of 2018 with a long history of advocating for children and childhood. She has a number of direct professional experiences with those touched by adoption and out-of-home placement which contribute to her tapestry of skills, most recently as a long-time employee at Ampersand Families as a Permanency Specialist. From 2000 to 2014 she was a court appointed Guardian ad Litem for Ramsey County and she spent years as a member of the administrative team of Southside Family Nurturing Center, a family-centered program for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.



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Heather Van Brunt M. Ed., LSW (HELP Specialist)

Main Stage Panel Speakers

Ben Reis

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Chris Tiedeman

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Julie Martindale

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Gail Meyer

Conference Details

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