Without Albertina Kerr, I wouldn’t have had anywhere for my daughter to go. All the follow-up help from Kerr has helped her immensely. She is no longer cutting, no longer says that she wants to commit suicide. If she does have an issue, I know that Albertina Kerr will take her back immediately if necessary and that is such a relief.
Jamie was really hopeless and depressed. She started hanging out with people who were cutting themselves. She didn’t want to talk with anybody. At one point, she ran away. When she came home, she was there for a couple of weeks when I went to pick up my husband. Her 10-year old brother was home with her. When we came home, her brother came running out the front door yelling that “Jamie is trying to commit suicide, she hates everybody.” When we got in the house she was just looking at her arm, watching it bleed. She had slit her wrists until they looked like they had been grated. She had also taken an entire bottle of Ritalin. When I picked up the empty bottle of Ritalin, Jamie managed to grab another razor blade and try again. This wasn’t the first time she had cut herself, she had been hospitalized before. This time, after she left the hospital she went to Albertina Kerr’s crisis psychiatric care unit for two weeks.
Today, she is not cutting anymore and is not trying to commit suicide. She’s happy and outgoing. She has returned to sports. Jamie is doing better because of Albertina Kerr. Before, we didn’t receive any outside help but now we have a counselor that continues treatment with her. She is engaged in several different programs and classes each week to keep her busy. Without Albertina Kerr, I’m afraid that Jamie would have committed suicide. She is making better decisions about who she is hanging out with. She is no longer violent towards her brother and parents. She is nicer to her brother. Because counseling was never forced on us by Albertina Kerr, she continues to go.
At Albertina Kerr, she learned that there are other avenues for releasing anger and how to talk about her feelings. As a parent, I’ve learned to talk with her and instill trust in a positive way. We are receiving family counseling as well. Uncovering an earlier issue has helped a lot. Jamie was raped and sodomized when she was 5 by an 18-year old. While I made sure that charges were filed and he did 14 years in prison, I stayed home with Jamie and didn’t discuss it with her again. Because of that, she held onto a belief that I was okay with what happened. Through counseling, she learned what really happened.
If I didn't get her into Albertina Kerr, this wouldn't have turned out the way it did. Jamie and I are doing really well now. Before Albertina Kerr she said she hoped I died. Now Jamie tells me that she loves me all the time.
Amber’s Story, December 2014
Amber’s story speaks to the impact of community-based children’s mental health services especially for those with the most acute mental health needs. The story is told by Amber’s aunt. She speaks of the deep anxiety caused by having a child with acute mental health needs. The services she found at Kerr changed quality of life for Amber and for her whole family.
Ten years ago my lovely niece Amber came into my life and dramatically changed both or our lives forever. Amber was three years old when I was caring for her one afternoon, and noticed what looked like strangulation marks on her neck. I suspected abuse may have been occurring in Amber’s unstable home. My brother was in prison before Amber was born and back in prison again with a long history of drug abuse. Amber was being raised by my sister in-law who also is addicted to drugs and was working as a stripper.
I was hesitant to report this suspected abuse to the Department of Human Services. I was afraid what would happen to Amber if she was taken from her home and the family conflict this would cause but I knew that Amber needed protection. I made that difficult phone call to find out there were 12 other phone calls made before mine.
After an investigation Amber was removed from her home and placed in the Oregon foster care system. Being a close relative I was asked if I would care for Amber temporally in my home. Of course I welcomed her with open arms along with my husband and two daughters and faintly realizing the many challenges that lay ahead. Amber had fetal alcohol syndrome, not potty trained and was not talking in complete sentences.
I just thought loving Amber would fix everything. But the classes I took from Department of Human Services did not prepare me for Amber’s frequent and extreme tantrums; something I have not experienced raising my children. My husband who served in the Vietnam after the war equated Amber’s behavior from what he witnessed in Refugee camps. We had Amber evaluated by a psychologist and sought treatment but her behavior just got worse.
In third grade Amber was in a special needs and contained classroom. Due to Amber’s fits the classroom often had to be cleared for the other children’s safety and I was often called to come pick her up from school. I did not know what to do and was ready to give-up.
I finally got connected to Albertina Kerr. Before this nobody educated me how to raise a child with special needs and how very different this was to raising my other children. I started to look at Amber differently. Sandra, Albertina Kerr’s Family Coordinator, came to my home and meet with me a weekly. Kerr’s therapist Chrissy Milner came to work with Amber.
At first Chrissy did therapy with Amber and this was not effective. She switched tactics and started some skills training with Amber. They both build a “picture book and schedule”. Amber liked and needed structure for her daily schedule and chores and the picture book worked. They also developed a “fidget bag” full of little items to help Amber cope when she is angry. There are bubbles for her to blow, poems to read and a spritzer bottle of peppermint to smell.
Up front Chrissy told me she would be here until the family was strong and could step out of our lives. At first I was upset, I could not visualize not always needing Kerr’s help. But eventually, we were able to make the transition. When Kerr did step out of our lives our family was strong, I learned how to be a more effective parent, Amber was better and our family could cope.
Albertina Kerr has embarked on a historic multiphase capital campaign, Community Promise, to invest in the environments of care where Albertina Kerr strengthens communities. It is our largest and most consequential campaign since the late 1920s when volunteers raised funds to establish the Gresham campus and The Old Kerr Nursery.
Community Promise is led by honorary chair Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler together with chairs Fritz and Lynn Bartsch. To learn more about how you can get involved in the Community Promise capital campaign, call Jodi Lippert at 503-262-0185.