Army of Angels

by Albertina Kerr Centers Foundation

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."


Albertina Kerr
Albertina Kerr's Art from the Heart artists

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 are
living with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. As the
Family Resource and Advocacy Coordinator for Albertina Kerr, he works
tirelessly to provide advocacy and support for families and their children. He
has years of experience, but not all of his expertise comes from his
professional career. Mark became involved with Albertina Kerr’s Family Resource
Center because he is a parent of a child who is experiencing traumatic brain
injury. Through raising a child with developmental disabilities and mental
health challenges, he is passionate about helping families as they seek
healthcare resources in their own community.

The Family Resource Center is located at Albertina Kerr’s Cascade Station office (9830 NE
Cascades Pkwy, Ste. 200). Staff and volunteers work with families by phone,
email and in person to help find community-based resources whether at Albertina
Kerr or elsewhere in the community. The Center is a central resource for
questions, support and advocacy compassion when family challenges become

In addition to support and informational resources, the Family Resource
Center also offers computers for families to search for employment, housing,
health and dental care, transportation and more. And thanks to volunteers who
regularly staff the Family Resource Center, busy families and their children
always have effective and efficient support to lean on.

“It’s not just mental health services, it’s bigger than that. It’s
housing, utilities, food, social security solutions, resources for
transitioning youth and more,” says Debbie, the Family Support Specialist for
the Family Resource Center. Mark adds, “The Center helps create a better
journey for the next step.”

Recently, Mark received a phone call from a parent who was helping their
child, Andrew*, look for employment opportunities. They had never used an
outside agency for assistance, and had relied on doing everything within their
family. After gathering information about Andrew,  Mark was able to
provide support and empower the family to make phone calls and connections in
the community to benefit their child and the rest of the family. Andrew and his
family were excited to realize they were not alone on their journey and the
Family Resource Center was there to help them.

“A common theme in families with a child who is living with mental health
challenges or developmental disabilities is the idea that they are all alone,”
says Mark.  “I know our family felt this way in our situation.  It is
a 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 as
better connections with healthcare systems in their own community. Services and
support provided by Kerr’s Family Resource Center give hope to the families and
children who receive services like Andrew and his family.

For more
information about Kerr’s Family Resource Center, please visit

* Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.



Kerr helps children begin to recover from past experiences of abuse and neglect, address mental and emotional health challenges and receive life skills training and support to overcome obstacles related to both mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. Kerr also provides a wide range of care for adults with developmental disabilities aimed at allowing individuals to live the fullest and least restrictive life possible.

Donations from our community directly contribute to these outcomes and help Kerr achieve its mission of supporting people with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges to lead self-determined lives and realize their full potential.  In the last year, Kerr's program's reported the following results:

Developmental Disabilities Services

Group Homes for Youth: Kerr provided 24-hour care and treatment for 102 youth, ages 9 to 18, with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges in 15 group homes. Ninety-seven percent of the youth met their personal goals or are making significant, positive progress.

Group Homes for Adults: Kerr provided a neighborhood home in a residential community for 113 men and women with developmental disabilities in 29 group homes and served 112 adults with developmental disabilities in Community Inclusion programs where participants entered the workforce, joined in community activities and pursued hobbies. Ninety-six percent of all adults with disabilities met their personal goals or are well on their way.

Skills Training and Supported Living
Kerr provided 4 men and women with developmental disabilities who live in their own home and require assistance in improving their skills in personal care, cooking, shopping and other daily activities.

Youth & Family Services

Intensive Community-Based Treatment Services
Kerr served 97 low-income children, ages 4 to 17, with emotional and behavioral health challenges who were at risk of losing their home or school placement. Therapy, skills training, and intensive behavioral support allowed 77% of children to remain safely in their home setting.

Crisis Psychiatric Care
Kerr provided short-term crisis psychiatric care for 297 children who posed an immediate danger to themselves or others. Ninety-seven percent of children were stabilized and able to successfully transition to a less intensive level of care, including returning to their family.

Community-Based Outpatient Services
Kerr provided services to 207 children who required mental health treatment, skills training, and family support to be maintained in the community and out of institutions.

Kerr Early Childhood Outpatient Services
Kerr served 32 young children who are emotionally and behaviorally challenged.  All 32 children showed improvement in their presenting problems and daily functioning.  As a result, the children entered their community preschool or kindergarten ready to learn.

Special Needs & Therapeutic Foster Care
Kerr provided care for 106 children in foster care who have both mental health challenges and developmental disabilities and require skills training and extensive foster parent support.

While Kerr positively impacted the lives of more than 1,100 children, adults and families in the last year, the need for services remains great and more work needs to be done.
Community support will help Kerr's programs continue to grow and be successful.

For youth faced with a mental health challenge, as well as a developmental disability, this means providing a safe, supportive group home where each child can work to overcome significant challenges and build the social, emotional and daily life skills needed for future independence. For a child pulled from an unsafe family and placed into foster care, this means being a lifeline to stability and a brighter future. For a child in the midst of a frightening, even life-threatening, mental health crisis, this means being a safety net offering immediate security and stabilization.


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Organization Information

Albertina Kerr Centers Foundation

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Project Leader:
Nanda Sturm
Associate Director, Corporate Development & Giving
Portland, Oregon United States