Albertina Kerr provides a wide range of services for children with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges as well as support for their families.
Kerr's programs are unique in Oregon, providing intensive intervention and psychiatric treatment for toddlers, young children and teenagers from 3 years to 17. Many of these children are struggling to function at home, at school or in the community. Kerr provides treatment and skills training geared toward reuniting children with their families when possible and creating new potential for a healthy, productive life for each child.
Hope for the Future
A small town boy from the Oregon Coast, Conner* attempted to commit suicide at age 17. After a frightening trip to the emergency room, he was admitted to the Crisis Psychiatric Care program. His father Frank* was concerned that he needed help and hopeful that Albertina Kerr could provide it. "The staff are smart, they are caring, they really make an effort to connect with the kids," said Frank. "They go out of their way to help children and it goes beyond being a job for them."
*All names have been changed to protect privacy.
Albertina Kerr provides a wide range of services designed to support people with developmental disabilities. The people Kerr serves have mental and physical disabilities resulting in impairments to daily functioningand include diagnoses such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. They receive care, skills training and support for community involvement in their homes, in the community and in group homes.
In 2012, Albertina Kerr added to its community inclusion offerings with the acquisition of three new programs that offer opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to participate in the workforce. Art from the Heart are studio and gallery where 40-50 artists work, Cans for Kids recycling program which serves nearly 100 companies in Portland and Salem, and The Snack Squad which stocks treat boxes for more than 300 local businesses.
Rebecca, who has been coming to the studio for more than seven years, enjoys weaving, pottery and painting, especially in the style of her favorite artists, Thomas Kinkade. She’s also a fan of the theater programwhere her great sense of humor shines. Most of all, she enjoys her work because “we do a lot of cool stuff, it’s fun. And, I get paid when something sells.”
Having watched her aunts care for kids in foster care, Renee Pinkerton was just a little girl when she knew that someday she wanted to provide a home to children in need. Today, Renee and her husband Mike are caring for kids with special needs through Albertina Kerr’s foster care program. Renee says that providing foster care "has changed me as a human being. It has taught me what it means to really love. How to walk alongside a child who is struggling to make life work and then to bring them to the place to be able to enjoy the day and what it has to offer, to be safe and understand what it means to be loved."
Renee and Mike are just one of dozens of families that provide two types of foster care at Albertina Kerr. Special Needs Foster Care is for children with developmental disabilities who need additional support and supervision to complete day to day activities. This care is usually long-term and requires a major commitment. Many of the children served in the Therapeutic Foster Care program come from a background of severe abuse and neglect. As a result, these children have emotional challenges that require special services and therapy.
Albertina Kerr foster care providers are part of a caring team of experienced professionals that provide an exceptional level of support to foster children and each other. Foster care providers receive 24-hour access to staff, ongoing training, skills training assistance, respite care and financial compensation. Albertina Kerr provides foster care to children around the state and certifies foster homes in Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties.
Albertina Kerr works closely with the child, their family, their care team and foster care providers to understand and meet the unique needs of each child to improve the child’s ability to succeed at home and school, and to reunite them with their families whenever possible. "To have an agency that supports you in a very difficult role is the thing that has helped us to continue to navigate through lives of children that are very difficult, systems that are very difficult, a world that doesn’t always understand," says Renee. "They are like an anchor that has helped us stay on course." Mike said, "We have realized in our experience that you just can’t do foster parenting by yourself. You need a team around you to be able to be successful."
Albertina Kerr's Art from the Heart is an art center and gallery for adults with developmental disabilities. We strive to foster each artist’s creative growth, build positive relationships within our community, and promote an awareness of the cultural contributions from people of all abilities.
Recently, artists from Art from the Heart were able to partake in a special community event at the Portland Japanese Garden. Renowned Japanese artist, Hiroshi Saito, was in Portland showing his Threads of Hope: Art as Social Practice exhibit at the Portland Japanese Garden’s summer Art in the Garden exhibition.
Art from the Heart artists joined community members for the Community Project: Fabric Dyeing with Hiroshi Saito. Participants were given a brief history of Japanese fabric dyeing before jumping in to the ancient ritual.
During the event, Saito led community members and Art from the Heart artists in dyeing a 20-meter-long sheet of fabric. Half of the fabric created will be sent to people in shelters in Tohoku as a gesture of support for the ongoing struggles of tsunami survivors in Northern Japan. The other half of the fabric will be donated to Art from the Heart for future art-making projects.
Albertina Kerr will be hosting an Art from the Heart Art Show on Thursday, August 23 from 5 to 8pm at Art from the Heart (3505 NE Broadway in Portland). The art show will feature work from more than 40 artists with developmental disabilities.
Empowering Families - Family Resource Center, Giving Families Hope for the Future
Mark knows first-hand how important it is to lend a hand to families and children who areliving with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. As theFamily Resource and Advocacy Coordinator for Albertina Kerr, he workstirelessly to provide advocacy and support for families and their children. Hehas years of experience, but not all of his expertise comes from hisprofessional career. Mark became involved with Albertina Kerr’s Family ResourceCenter because he is a parent of a child who is experiencing traumatic braininjury. Through raising a child with developmental disabilities and mentalhealth challenges, he is passionate about helping families as they seekhealthcare resources in their own community.
The Family Resource Center is located at Albertina Kerr’s Cascade Station office (9830 NECascades Pkwy, Ste. 200). Staff and volunteers work with families by phone,email and in person to help find community-based resources whether at AlbertinaKerr or elsewhere in the community. The Center is a central resource forquestions, support and advocacy compassion when family challenges becomeoverwhelming.
In addition to support and informational resources, the Family ResourceCenter also offers computers for families to search for employment, housing,health and dental care, transportation and more. And thanks to volunteers whoregularly staff the Family Resource Center, busy families and their childrenalways have effective and efficient support to lean on.
“It’s not just mental health services, it’s bigger than that. It’shousing, utilities, food, social security solutions, resources fortransitioning youth and more,” says Debbie, the Family Support Specialist forthe Family Resource Center. Mark adds, “The Center helps create a betterjourney for the next step.”
Recently, Mark received a phone call from a parent who was helping theirchild, Andrew*, look for employment opportunities. They had never used anoutside agency for assistance, and had relied on doing everything within theirfamily. After gathering information about Andrew, Mark was able toprovide support and empower the family to make phone calls and connections inthe community to benefit their child and the rest of the family. Andrew and hisfamily were excited to realize they were not alone on their journey and theFamily Resource Center was there to help them.
“A common theme in families with a child who is living with mental healthchallenges or developmental disabilities is the idea that they are all alone,”says Mark. “I know our family felt this way in our situation. It isa wonderful gift to families to realize that others have similar experiences.”
The goal of the Family Resource Center is to give families hope,resources and solutions that ultimately create a stronger family as well asbetter connections with healthcare systems in their own community. Services andsupport provided by Kerr’s Family Resource Center give hope to the families andchildren who receive services like Andrew and his family.
For moreinformation about Kerr’s Family Resource Center, please visit AlbertinaKerr.org.
* Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.
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Associate Director, Corporate Development & Giving