Guest Post: Introducing our new Executive Director, Karen Rush

Guest post by: Karen Rush, Children’s Center Executive Director

Starting my work as the new Executive Director for Children’s Center has been a joyful way for me to kick off the new year.  Since beginning, I have been given a warm welcome by both the board and the staff and have also received a very thoughtful and thorough orientation plan that is making this transition as smooth as possible.  This is a real gift, and I deeply appreciate everyone’s hard work and help.

I am an educational administrator with experience in diverse settings including special education, university-level scholarship and research, clinical and school psychology, early childhood education, special projects and grants administration, equity discourse, and restorative practices. Until last month, I had been in the North Clackamas School District where I have worked for 20-years as a school psychologist, district-level leader, and as an elementary principal (most recently at Oak Grove Elementary in Milwaukie).

Throughout my career, I have focused on creating systems that support the emotional and behavioral needs of children to ensure inclusion of all young people in their home, school, and community environments. I am an advocate for equitable outcomes for each child. Using a child-centered, strengths-based, ecological model of child development, I collaborate with individuals from diverse groups to achieve a common vision for our work. This vision is supported by my knowledge of best practice and my ability to engage teams in cycles of inquiry and data-based decision-making.

While I’ve not served in a nonprofit organization as a leader before now, I understand how important it is to establish a firm foundation in understanding the organization. Over the next few months I will be working at building trusting and collaborative relationships with all our stakeholders including not only the staff and board, but also our many donors, funders, and partners.  As part of this process I look forward to meeting many of you.

On a more personal note: I grew up all over the country as part of a military family. I ended up in Minnesota during my late teens, where I went on to attend the University of Minnesota to get my bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and also my Ph.D. My husband Don and I moved to Oregon in 1997 so I could take a job at University of Oregon, but we fell in love with Clackamas County when I took a school psychologist position in the North Clackamas School District in 2000. Our two daughters were born and raised here. Ellen now attends the University of Oregon after graduating from Rex Putnam High School, and Caroline is in her senior year there. Twenty years later we are true Oregonians who love the outdoors, the rain, and the friendly people who make this a great place to live!

It is my practice every morning to spend some time meditating before beginning the tasks and activities of the day.  This morning, I focused on “getting grounded.”  In all honesty, this can be a difficult practice for me because when I am excited about something, I just want to start running, leaping, and flying!  I am definitely a “just do it” kind of person.  However, I recognize that grounding myself in this work and really taking the time to observe, listen, and learn is the most important action I can engage in right now.

Unfortunately, none of us know what 2021 is going to bring, but one thing I am sure of is that Children’s Center is stably funded and able to be flexible. It will continue to be a safe place for children who have suffered abuse or neglect, and a place where they can find help, healing, and hope for a bright future.

I wish each of you a Happy New Year and look forward to a 2021 that is full of dreaming, growing, laughing, learning, and leaping!


Learn a bit more about Karen’s background from our 11/20/2020 blog post, Announcing our new Executive Director, Dr. Karen Rush!

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