Melinda Haggerty, Esq., serves as the Senior VP and General Counsel at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. She shares her personal journey and how her background as an adopted individual who grew up in the foster care system informs her perspective and commitment to the foundation’s cause. This Nonprofit Power Week episode highlights the significance of recognizing one’s own boundaries, the value of self-care, and the importance of diverse perspectives from individuals with lived experiences in the nonprofit sector. Melinda’s openness and authenticity in sharing her story serve as a powerful example of how personal experiences can inform and inspire meaningful work in the nonprofit world.
During the conversation, Melinda discusses her upbringing, being the oldest of five children with parents struggling with mental health and addiction issues. She highlights the disparities in how the system responds to her and her 12-year-old sister, who ends up in the juvenile justice system. This early experience leads her to a deep understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable children.
She emphasizes the importance of permanency for youth in the child welfare system and how her own adoption at the age of 18 provides her with stability and support.
The co-hosts ask about her role as General Counsel at the Dave Thomas Foundation, where she manages legal and policy aspects. She also discusses the challenges of disclosing her personal experience, setting boundaries, and balancing her lived experience with her professional role. She explained, “I never want to make a decision because of my lived experience because I would be missing the lived experience of everyone else in the child welfare system.” She emphasized the need to always consider various viewpoints and not let her personal experience overshadow the broader experiences of others.
Melinda points out the importance of maintaining self-care, including ongoing therapy, and her role as a mother, which provides her with healing and a sense of normalcy in her life. She acknowledges that her lived experience doesn’t define her qualifications but adds another lens to her perspective.