Army of Angels

by Albertina Kerr Centers Foundation
Vetted

Twins Nick and Olga work at Albertina Kerr's Port City employment program for people with developmental disabilities.  They enjoy producing artwork and tending vegetables in the garden in the ProjectGrow program, but most of all they appreciate the camaraderie and community of their workplace.  When asked how she feels about coming to work, Olga said: "I feel joy.  If I stayed home, I would lay down and cry to not have ProjectGrow.  I have lots of friends.  I can use my talents here.  Everybody helps me if I need something.  They respect me."

Albertina Kerr's employment programs such as Port City and Art from the Heart, an art gallery and studio, offer people with developmental disbilities opportunities to participate in the workforce and express themselves creatively.  Jobs are developed on the basis of each person's skill  level and interests, empowering people to contribute to the workforce and gain a sense of accomplishment, share talents with others and develop new social relationships. 

"Without these connections they are much more likely to experience a crisis or decline.  Often, this may be the only opportunity that these individuals have to get out of their homes," said Chris Krenk, Albertina Kerr CEO.

At Port City, opportunities include screen printing, production work, artistic expression, urban farming and animal husbandry, woodworking and a center for people with high care and meidcal needs.

A job can be a major factor in shaping anyone's life, but at Albertina Kerr it can be lifechanging.  Port City's Hilary Zust said: "For many of the people that work here, they have been institutionalized for a really long time period and don't really have a lot of community outside of here.  It's important for them to have that socialization.  And to earn a paycheck."

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Michael (13) and his brother (9) were removed from their home when their father’s abuse left the younger brother with a broken arm. Their mother, suffering from severe depression, was unable to care for them. When Michael was moved into a Kerr foster home, he was moody, depressed and extremely angry. Kerr’s therapists helped him find ways to decrease his anxiety and express his feelings. They also worked with his mother and through weekly supervised visits they started developing a more normal parent-child relationship. Soon, Michael’s younger brother joined him in the Kerr foster home and in supervised visits with their mother.

Less than a year later, Michael and his brother are living at home with their mother. Michael was named student of the month at his school. All three keep in touch with the foster family and are continuing with individual and family therapy, making sure they keep their new ties with each other and the community strong.

At Albertina Kerr, we are asked to care for children who have experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They are children who may be struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. They experience challenges at school and may lag behind their peers because they have changed schools each time they have moved homes.

Your support helps provide these essential services to children in need.

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 functioning
and 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 program
where 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."

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Organization Information

Albertina Kerr Centers Foundation

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

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