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Heather Jefferis Creates Safe Space for Foster Kids

The Oregonian featured a story about Kinship House, a safe place for foster children to process their memories and emotions, and its executive director, Heather Jefferis '97.

Excerpt from an article by Melissa Binder in The Oregonian,
November 7, 2013.

Kinship House is actually a house. There is a kitchen with two large containers of animal cookies on the counter. The basement has a room for figurine toys and a room for art projects.

But those rooms aren't there just to accommodate play. Those rooms are designed to help children in foster care communicate and process their memories, fears and emotions.

"These kids are in and out of a lot of institutions," Heather Jefferis said. "We want this to be a safe place."

Jefferis is the director of Kinship House, which welcomes children — and their families — who are currently in care or are dealing with problems after reunification or adoption.

"Foster care is necessary," Jefferis said, "but being removed from your family — no matter how difficult they are — is traumatizing."

The nonprofit contracts with Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, where there were more than 4,500 children in foster care at least once during 2012, according to data from Children First for Oregon, a nonpartisan nonprofit child advocacy organization.

Kinship House bills Oregon Health Plan and private insurers, but billing only covers about 70 percent of operations, Jefferis said. The remainder is covered by donations and grants.

Jefferis projects Kinship House will see about 500 children this year.

Heather Jefferis earned an MA in Art Therapy Counseling from Marylhurst University in 1997. She has served both in the public and private nonprofit sector within the field of mental health and addictions outpatient services.

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