Fashioning Change: Jennifer Eckert ’08MSW Recounts her Simmons Journey
I never would have had my new career and been able to touch so many lives without Simmons— I’m so grateful. Simmons not only educates students in their academic fields, it prepares them to be leaders and take risks to keep moving forward.
Trustee Jennifer Eckert ’08MSW was working in the fashion industry when she felt impelled to make a significant mid-life career change. The experience of being an adopted child had already motivated her to volunteer with adopted teens and their parents, and she decided it was time to refocus her career in that direction.
Eckert is now a licensed clinical social worker and the founder and executive director of Boston Post Adoption Resources (BPAR) in Brookline, Mass. She launched the nonprofit in 2012 to provide education and support for anyone “touched by adoption” and foster care. Clients range from children as young as five or six, to birth or foster parents now in their 80s.
“No two stories are alike. And our goal is to meet the needs of whoever is looking for services and support, wherever they are in their journey in adoption or foster care,” says Eckert. “That includes individual therapy, family therapy, birth-family therapy, search, and reunion— we help a lot of people looking for their birth family.” They also respond to every call they get from people around the world seeking information. “We don’t get paid for that—it’s just the right thing to do.”
“I never would have had my new career and been able to touch so many lives without Simmons— I’m so grateful,” says Eckert, who earned a master’s from the School of Social Work to begin her new chapter. “Simmons not only educates students in their academic fields, it prepares them to be leaders and take risks to keep moving forward.”
Her gratitude— and conviction that “Simmons’ most valuable asset is its faculty”—inspired her to establish an endowed chair at the School in 2015. At BPAR, Eckert and her team are always learning. Social media, DNA testing, openness in foster care and adoptions, and other changes have introduced issues that can be hard for people to navigate solo—perhaps the sudden discovery of a new half-sibling or other surprises on a family tree.
“We also help parents who have used reproductive technologies such as donor eggs or sperm donors and wonder how to tell their children about their beginnings,” says Eckert.
To help meet the demand for support, Eckert co-authored the children’s book Adoption is a Lifelong Journey with BPAR colleagues Katie Gorczyca and Kelly DiBenedetto (who is also the illustrator). They wrote the book from a child’s perspective to highlight common needs among children and families; they included related resources for adults.
“The book is meant to be read by a child and parent or caregiver together so the child feels validated and normalized by their feelings. And parents gain a better understanding of what the child is going through,” says Eckert. The feedback has been very positive so BPAR is working to expand distribution.
Looking ahead, Eckert says she hopes more families will think about adopting children who are in foster care. “There are so many children out there who really need good homes and loving parents and families.”