Project Manager Chris Jones has been leading tours of the Family Resource and Child Development Center building for staff, board members and community members during its construction. The Center is slated to welcome two classrooms of children served by the Willamette Education Service District this fall.
If you’ve ever wondered how this project got started, here’s a little background. In late 2017, a generous area philanthropist approached Executive Director Jim Seymour with a leadership gift challenge of $1,000,000 to design an innovative approach to addressing community needs, particularly to strengthen families and help children succeed at school. Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) absenteeism and drop-out rates are among the highest in Oregon.
In 2018, our Board held listening sessions with area educators and staff. In expressing their hopes for families they serve, the seed of the idea for the Family Resource and Child Development Center emerged. Planning partners include SKPS, Willamette Education Service District (WESD), Mountain West Investments, Marion-Polk Early Learning Hub, and the Fostering Hope Initiative Executive Council. In a short time, our community embraced the Center as a way to tackle head on the issues facing families and begin transforming Salem-Keizer schools to rank among the top in Oregon.
Thousands of children in our district live in poverty. It can be difficult for families facing adversity such as hunger, housing instability, or raising children with special needs to access services due to a shortage of service integration, limited transportation to dispersed agency locations, scheduling issues, child care needs, and lack of knowledge about available, affordable services.
Many parents of children with special needs are over-burdened, stressed, and need support to protect and nurture their children. Some are foster parents seeking to help a child recover after neglect. Teachers sometimes find it challenging to access services and equipment that children need.
The Center will bring together preschool and special education classrooms, services, care providers, and community supports in a single, convenient and accessible location. The promise of the Center is to help children with special challenges to flourish and increase their success at school; strengthen family resilience; reduce the incidence of disrupted foster care placements; improve collaboration among health care professionals, social service providers and educators; reduce service duplication, and increase accessibility.
Partners who have already indicated intent to utilize space at the Center include SKPS, WESD, St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, Marion-Polk Early Learning Hub, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, and the Community Counseling Center.