Army of Angels

by Albertina Kerr Centers Foundation

Albertina Kerr's Crisis Psychiatric Care program supports more than 300 children from across Oregon who enter care in the midst of an emergency mental health crisis. Children remain in Kerr's care for an average of three weeks before returnin to their home community in a stable condition for further community-based care. One child's story 

For many years, Walsh had been managing the challenges of social anxiety, OCD, and Tourette’s syndrome. Then, at 12 years old, Walsh threatened suicide, telling his parents that he didn’t want to be around anymore. His parents, Julia and Rick, were also becoming fearful that Walsh could be a danger to his younger brother, Henry. After the suicide threat, Julia and Rick took Walsh to the emergency room where he was then referred to Albertina Kerr’s Crisis Psychiatric Care program. 

Initially, Walsh dug in his heels and was fearful of needing and receiving help. He had never been away from home so it was a significant change for him to be in the short-term residential facility. The time in care helped Walsh identify his strengths including drawing and reading. Kerr’s Crisis Psychiatric Care helped Walsh to open up and try new things when he went home.

Walsh’s counselor Ryan was in touch with Julia and Rick often throughout Walsh’s stay to let them know about Walsh’s progress. The routine check-ins from staff were a relief to Julia and Rick. With each note of progress, the family was becoming less concerned for the safety of Henry when Walsh returned.

When Walsh’s stay reached three weeks, a point at which most children are ready to return home, Julia, Rick and Ryan discussed the prospect and decided more time was needed. Rather than move Walsh to long-term residential care, which can keep children away from home for three to six months, the Crisis Psychiatric Care program continued care for longer than most. After 38 days Walsh returned home. He had learned how to problem solve and to think before reacting as well as self-soothing skills. His progress continues with the help of Albertina Kerr’s community-based mental health services. Today, Walsh receives visits for support at his home from Kerr’s skills trainers and counselors. Julia and Rick are continuing their own progress, taking advantage of free Collaborative Problem Solving classes for parents offered by Kerr.

Reflecting on the experience, Julia realized that once Walsh got to Albertina Kerr, she and Rick did not feel like they were helpless anymore. The staff at Kerr taught Julia to accept that Walsh’s struggles were not a reflection against her and Rick or their parenting.

“We have a long road ahead, but he’s definitely in a better spot,” said Julia. “This is a stepping stone. We had to do this to move forward. And Kerr was great along the way.”

*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy.


Albertina Kerr's Project Grow has been selected as one of the exhibition sites for this year's Portland Biennial. Project Grow is one of 25 partner venues hosting exhibitions of the event, curated by Michelle Grabner and presented by Disjecta Contemporary Art Center.

Project Grow will be showcasing the work of Oregon artist Colin Pickhardt Kippen. Project Grow Artists Ricky Bearghost and Lawrence Oliver were chosen by Grabner after several studio visits to have work features in Salon: Portland2016, The Studio Visits, a salon-style exhibition at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center. Project Grow's participation establishes the Biennial program and artists as strong, relevant voices in our region's contemporary art community.

Project Grow is a program of Albertina Kerr's Port City Development Center, an activity and recreation program that provides career ans social support for adults with developmental disabilities from Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties in Oregon. Project Grow provides a space for artists with developmental disabilities to explore personal expression through an array of artisistc mediums, as well as gan skill and experience working on a chemical-free garm with an emphasis on sustainability. Project Grow is a space where creativity is fostered and supported, and where no limits are placed on the projects artists choose to undertake.

"Project Grow aims to create a shared art experience by connecting individuals with artists in the community," said Carissa Burkett, Albertina Kerr Program Manager. "We are honored to showcase the art of talented local artists and have our artists' work o exhibition for the community to see."

The opening reception was held at Project Grow on Saturday, July 9. Exhibitions run until September 18, 2016. To learn more visit

Austin at work in his new position.
Austin at work in his new position.

People with developmental disabilities experience significnatly less opportunity in the workforce than their non-disabled peers. Austin, a young adult with a developmental disability, has accomplished a significant feat that unfortunately few of his peers can claim; he has found competitive employment in an integrated setting. However, just finding employment was not enough for Austin. He came to Albertina Kerr last year because he was unhappy in his job as a bottle room clerk at a local grocery store and looking for a new employment opportunities.

Austin decided to take a leap of faith by beginning Kerr’s Project SEARCH program, a brand new internship program in the state of Oregon for young adults with developmental disabilities. Project SEARCH teaches real-life job skills through a partnership at host businesses. The goal for Project SEARCH is employment at the host business or another business using the skills gained from the progam. Austin’s internship site was the Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Before attending Project SEARCH, Austin’s ideal job was working in a kitchen setting. To help gain the required skills needed for this position, the Project SEARCH team placed him in the kitchen at Kaiser for one of his rotations. In this role, he learned how to do dishes, put together orders for patients, bus tables and cashier. He gained significnat experience and skills for the position of his dreams.

After Austin graduated from Project SEARCH, he began applying for jobs with the assistance of one of Albertina Kerr’s Job Developers. Austin identified an open position for a dishwashing position at Bon Appetite, the cafeteria located on the Intel Campus in Hillsboro. He applied, interviewed and was hired full-time. While working at Intel, Austin has been paired with a job coach who initially needed to help Austin with job coaching for every shift. As Austin advanced  in his skills in the kitchen, he began his journey of being independent and the job coaching slowly faded.

After working at Intel for approximately five months, Austin decided he wanted to be completely independent and no longer long term coaching supports. While this transition is still in process, it is our hope and wish for Austin that he becomes completely independent. Job coaches close to Austin has expressed their joy to witness Austin’s growth and to see the person and employee he has become with the help of the Project SEARCH program.

Albertina Kerr is currently offering Project SEARCH in two locations in the Portland metro area with expectations for the program to grow in the future. Albertina Kerr’s Project SEARCH program challenges the norm in our society to create a society that has no barriers for people with developmental disabilities.

More information about Project SEARCH and other Albertina Kerr Employment Services can be found at:

Intensive Community-Based Treatment serves children ages 3 to 17 who are at risk of being unable to stay in their home or in school due to a mental health condition. We start by identifying a team for the child and family that may include professionals involved in the child's life and people in their own social circle who are willing to help. We look for ways the family can build connections within the community to develop long-term stability. The services include home-based individual and family therapy, skills training and a 24-hour helpline. 

We also look for ways the family can draw strength from their community, whether it’s a neighbor with children around the same age or a volunteer activity that the family could accomplish together.

Our team is there to build a plan for the success of the child and family. We measure success when the family and community have everything in place to understand and meet the child’s needs.

Follow the link below to watch a wonderful story about Sandra Cisneros and her experience with Albertina Kerr's Community Based Services.

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.


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Organization Information

Albertina Kerr Centers Foundation

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Development Staff
Portland, Oregon United States

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