Speech Given by Executive Director Karen Rush at the 2021 Chamber Christmas Giving Breakfast:
I would like to begin by saying how grateful, humbled, and excited we are to have been selected for the North Clackamas Chamber Giving Breakfast! This is a wonderful gift to our organization, and we cannot say thank you enough!
I am joined here today by several members of our Volunteer Board, and I would like to take a few moments to introduce them and thank them for the passion and dedication to the Children’s Center:
Brian Nava, Orlando Perez, Marianne Cursetjee, Patti Fellas, Tina Irvine, and Cathie Burns.
I would also like to thank all of you who are here today for your kindness, compassion, enthusiasm, and commitment to helping your community be a place where all children feel safe, valued, and heard.
When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. When you are small, the world can often feel overwhelming and unpredictable. Watching Mr. Roger’s brought me joy and wonder, but probably more importantly, it created in me a sense of security and safety.
To this day, Fred Rogers is my personal hero. I have been a child psychologist, a teacher, a principal, and now the director of a Child Advocacy Center. Through it all, I have looked to Fred Rogers when I wasn’t sure how to help a child, because he always understood that the most basic need of any child is to feel that they are safe, that they are secure in the world, and that they are loved and valued.
I love being a part of Children’s Center because our vision is a world where all children feel safe, valued, and heard. Our mission is to end child abuse and neglect by providing child-centered, trauma-sensitive assessments, treatment, and prevention services to children and families in Clackamas County. To me, this mission and vision aligns perfectly with those two ideals of caring for all children and creating a community to surround them with love.
For those of you less familiar with what we do, I will give you a quick overview of what our services look like. When there are concerns for abuse or neglect of a child, they may be referred for an assessment at Children’s center. The assessment is comprehensive and involves a team approach. When the family arrives at the center, they are welcomed to a beautiful and comfortable private waiting room that will be their space for the duration of the assessment. They are greeted by our team, comprised of a clinical support coordinator, medical provider, forensic interviewer, and family support specialist. Often, the caseworker from ODHS and the law enforcement agent involved in the case attend the assessment too.
While the child is receiving a thorough medical examination and an expert forensic interview, the protective caregiver is receiving support and guidance from our family support specialists. All families leave the assessment with detailed recommendations for next steps to support their child. All of the children who are seen at the center go home with a new stuffed toy and a beautiful handmade blanket provided by amazing volunteers.
Many families tell us that prior to their appointments, they felt dread and anxiety about what would happen during the assessment. It can be very stressful coming to a center like ours to talk about some of the most difficult experiences that can happen in a family. For example, we had a young teenager come in with her family after she had been sexually abused by someone in the community. She was visibly upset and crying when she entered the building. The staff recognized this right away. They quickly adapted the process so that she didn’t have to wait for her appointment to begin, and reassured her that she was safe in this setting and would have time to tell her story in her own words. After the appointment, the entire family was more relaxed and felt a sense of relief that they could now begin moving forward in their healing process as a family.
I want to make sure that you are also aware of our therapy and prevention services. We provide evidence-based trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children who experienced the trauma of abuse or neglect. Together with their protective caregivers, children work through their trauma with the therapist, developing coping skills and strategies to allow them to move beyond what happened to them in their past.
Our prevention program focuses on working with caring adults in our community to build awareness of the impact of child abuse and neglect and to develop skills for recognizing, responding to, and preventing abuse and neglect from happening.
I mentioned earlier that Mr. Rogers has been impactful in my work. I would like to share something he said that I think is especially powerful.
“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.” He also said, “Anyone who does something to help a child is a hero.”
At all times, but especially at this time of year, I thank you for all you have given to make our community one that is safe and uplifting for children. They need your help, and they gain so much from having you as a one of the people in their neighborhood.