Melissa Delinger

Melissa researches adoption industry at Iowa State

Melissa Delinger didn’t think grad school was in the plans for her. She had been researching programs during her undergraduate years, but couldn’t find any near her hometown. Her senior year she attended the National Council and Family Relation Conference with her school. Here, she met Diana Baltimore, who encouraged her to apply to Iowa State.

“We hit it off right away,” she said. “I decided I would apply to one grad school (Iowa State), and if I got funding, I would go.”

And she did. During her graduate studies Melissa worked with Diana in the human development and family studies department completing her assistantship. Diana noticed her drive, and offered Melissa an internship with her non-profit organization, The National Center for Adoption.

This opportunity taught Melissa how to develop and implement curriculums for foster parents. Her time here, along with her experience babysitting for foster kids, helped Melissa recognize issues in the foster care system, and want to change it. To do so, she started researching solutions to the fast turnover rate of foster parents, which she said is one of the biggest problems.

“I feel it’s the biggest problem because when there aren’t enough homes, the quality of the home gets sacrificed,” she said.

Melissa caters her dissertation and thesis to researching solutions, but she also centers her career around it as well. Instead of academia, she plans on opening a non-profit foster care organization which specializes in providing proper training to foster parents.

“My goal when I graduate is to start a non-profit,” she said. “I think if we provide better support, quality of training to foster parents, we can retain them better.”

In addition to her professional goals, Melissa’s personal life is also affected. She and her husband have one child, but they also hope to welcome more into their family through adoption.

“I’ve always wanted lots of kids,” she said. “We have one biological child, but we also want to provide homes to kids who don’t have them.”