Celebrating our Community Health Workers

September 30, 2014 - Leave a Response


On August 25th, Nuestra Comunidad Sana, a program of The Next Door, hosted a graduation of Community Health Workers (CHWs) from the first CHW training series held in the Gorge.  This was a joint endeavor with Multnomah County Health Department’s Community Capacitation Center.  It was the first of two series that we have funding for from PacificSource Community Solutions, Inc., the Oregon Community Foundation, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital and the Columbia Gorge Community College.

Here’s a link to a story about this that ran in the Hood River News and The Dalles Chronicle.  We are very proud of this accomplishment, especially since it means that there are now 25 people in the Mid-Columbia region that are certified Community Health Workers.


It Keeps Getting Better, and They Keep Getting Bigger

March 12, 2014 - Leave a Response
My daughter, Lani (L), and her friend Lucy have enjoyed Bowl for Kids Sake for a few years now

My daughter, Lani (L), and her friend Lucy have enjoyed Bowl for Kids Sake for a few years now

Usually fundraisers reach their peak after a few years. Who would have imagined that Bowl for Kids’ Sake, in its 12th year, would have grossed $52,000 this year!? That makes it the best year yet.

We can’t thank our business sponsors and our bowling teams enough for their support of Big Brothers Big Sisters!

I also can’t believe that my daughters keep growing, but I have proof.

My daughter, Lani (right) and her friend, Lucy had a unique way of bowling.

Lucy and Lani in 2013

My daughter and her friend enjoyed bowling as a pair

Lucy and Lani in 2012

Generosity Year After Year

January 17, 2014 - Leave a Response

Giving1 Every year in December, I am awed.  The holiday spirit is in abundance in the Gorge.  By January, I am usually so busy I forget about it but this year, I waited to get this list together so I could bask in the glory of giving once again.

At The Next Door, we have so many programs (25 at last count!), sometimes we can’t even remember them all.  But our donors do not forget us.  Here is a list of the generous businesses, churches and service groups that remembered our program participants in December 2012.

Results We Already Knew

December 18, 2013 - Leave a Response

noe enrique 249  Visiting first time parents and providing  support is something we do well.  For over fifteen years, New Parent Services and Families First have trained Home Visitors to go and love babies.  No, really, we haven’t had to train our Home Visitors to do that–they come by that naturally!

Our Home Visitors have been trained in the Healthy Families (formerly Healthy Start) model.  This is an evidence based program which is nationwide.

Recently, an evaluation of Healthy Families Oregon was completed by Portland State University and NPC Research that proved to us what we already knew–the program works! Here are the key findings:

  • Families involved in Health Families Oregon (HFO) provided more early support for school readiness for their children
  • HFO mothers were less stressed than mothers in the control group, an important factor in reducing risk for maltreatment
  • Children in HFO were more likely to receive developmental screenings, and less likely to show early signs of being “off track” developmentally
  • There was little evidence of duplication of home visiting services.

The first three findings show that families served are healthier and children are more ready for school.  The last finding is for those who believe that there are so many services for parents that there is bound to be lots of duplication.  We know that the funding we receive for our Healthy Families of the Columbia Gorge is only able to serve 25% of those who need it.  And, because of our intense collaboration with other service providers, who try hard not to visit the same families as other programs.

For more detail about this report, click here–I’ve posted it to our website. I look forward to reading a larger study of HFO in 2015.  For now, though, it makes me feel good to have some proof of what we have known for a while: our Home Visitors are truly helping parents and children be stronger.

“I Just Want Normal”

November 21, 2013 - Leave a Response


Don't we wish that all children in the world can play like these two?

Don’t we wish that all children in the world can have the opportunity to play like these two?

Here’s a great email I got the other day from my co-worker, Elisa, who is a Home Visitor with our New Parent Services/Families First program.

I just met with a mom whose goal is housing for herself and her three children. Currently only one of the three lives with her, the other two are with her mother. This mom has multiple medical issues and has felt hopeless, depressed, and “stuck” in her current situation….

Today we were using a “family strengths and values” form to talk about what is important for her family. When asked about her strengths she said this:

“I am trying. That is my strength. I asked for help. Meeting with you brings me hope because we break down my goals that before overwhelmed me. I want housing, to have a job, and for the kids to be in school. I just want NORMAL. Coming here and meeting with you makes me feel like I can be normal.”

Yay for normal.

And yay for Elisa!

An Outdoor Facelift

October 29, 2013 - Leave a Response
Our newly finished fence behind our office in The Dalles--now that's what I call beautiful!

Our newly finished fence behind our office in The Dalles–now that’s what I call beautiful!

We moved into our new office in The Dalles a little over a year ago.  While it amounted to a huge improvement in office space for my 12 co-workers who work there, the outside was sorely lacking.

With help from our wonderful volunteers, we now have a new fence behind the building that will provide much needed and secure outdoor space for both program participants and employees.  This was truly a collaborative effort–from building 18 fence panels, to transporting them to The Dalles, to drilling the holes and planting the fence posts, to installing the fence and finally to staining it–there were five volunteers and three staff members involved.

It’s not done yet–we now have to beautify the inside area, but I’m sure many more volunteers will be around to help with that.

Here are some before and during construction photos.

IMG_2275 IMG_2273 TD Fence (1) Outside Before Photo (5)

Friends Make All the Difference

October 22, 2013 - Leave a Response
Here is my Table of Friends--great company and great friends of New Parent Services

Here is my Table of Friends–great company and great friends of New Parent Services

On Saturday, Oct 12th, New Parent Services held its 10th Annual Table of Friends.  This year’s event raised over $15,000 and once again gathered friends together to share in the fight against child abuse and neglect.

The best part of the night by far was the live dessert auction.  The chef at the Columbia Gorge Hotel created a peach espresso cheesecake with banana buttercream, looking just exactly like a baby gorilla.  How are people so talented?!

GorillaFourteen other desserts were donated, and together they generated $6,026 in donations!  My table got to eat a delicious banana chocolate cake decorated like a jungle with an elephant sitting under palm trees–yum!

As fun and uplifting as the event was, however, we must keep our “eyes on the prize.”  Charlie Hill, New Parent Services/Families First Director, wrote an email to his co-workers the day after the event.  It expresses my thoughts exactly.  Here it is in its entirety:

It’s a wrap!  Thanks to all of you for a special evening.  I know that pulling this event off was a lot of work.  By all accounts, the evening was a success.  I had several people stop and talk to me about NDI and what great things you all accomplish (mostly though, they wanted to know who that woman was with the painted whiskers and leopard tail). A couple of Board members even told me what a great event it was! It was truly my honor to be able to present such a great program.  The reduction in the child abuse and neglect (CAN) rate is a reflection of your hard work, sacrifices and dedication. Going from 43 to 29 cases from 2011 to 2012 was a great accomplishment for Hood River county.  But after hearing Megan’s story for a second time, I shudder to think about 29 Megans standing on stage to share their story. 29 cases is too many!

You know, back in 1961, President Kennedy challenged our nation.  He said it should be the goal of our nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade.  I actually remember him saying that!  Then, in 1969…it happened.  Apollo 11 landed men on the moon, and returned them safely to earth.  Who ever would have thought this would have been possible back in 1961?  I bet had you polled people on the street in 1961, 99.9% would have probably said that putting a man on the moon was impossible.

Getting back to CAN.  29 cases of CAN in HR is too many…it’s unacceptable.  The goal for HR county should be ZERO (0) cases.  I just can not imagine 29 Megans lined up on the stage telling their story, can you?…Can it be done?  I don’t know, but if we can land a man on the moon, then we ought to be able to eradicate CAN!

Resources for Independent Living

October 16, 2013 - Leave a Response

ConferenceHere’s a retreat I wish I’d attended to learn about options for foster youth as they age out of foster care.  Livia Colbert, ILP Coordinator, sent me an email summary about the Independent Living Program (ILP) providers retreat she co-hosted:

Every year Independent Living Program (ILP) Providers from across the state get together for multiple days to discuss updates on services for foster youth, share program ideas, debrief the year’s youth conferences and events, and network with one another. This year, The Next Door ILP had the honor of co-hosting the event with Looking Glass ILP from Eugene and having everyone from around the state come to us. The retreat was held at the Kiwanis Camp on Mt Hood and had 100% of state providers represented with a total of 47 attendees.

We were lucky to have an amazing line up of speakers at the retreat, including:

  • Lydia Bradley from Oregon Foster Youth Connection spoke about Senate Bill 123 which outlines rights for youth in foster care.
  • Andrea Kortase, DHS Young Adult Program Coordinator presented about required credit reports for teens in foster care and funding for homeless and runaway youth.
  • Celeste Bodner from Foster Club presented the first sets of data being collected from our areas through the NYTD surveys, which is a national survey to see track how young people are doing as they age out of the foster care system.
  • Christine House, Cover Oregon Regional Outreach Coordinator spoke about how medical coverage for the youth that we work with will be impacted by changes in healthcare laws
  • Catherine Stelzer from DHS and Melissa Glover from the Department of Education gave updates about diploma options for high school students, the changing GED, and special education.

We also got to hear from our State ILP representatives Rosemary Iavenditti and Carrie Vandijk who continue to do a wonderful job of keeping ILP providers up to date on news that will impact our programs or the youth that we serve.

Overall, we learned a lot, made connections with others who work hard to ensure that youth in our communities have access to the skills they needs to transition out of care, and had very successful conference in a beautiful location.

A Great Program is Due to Great People

September 18, 2013 - Leave a Response

There is nothing I like better than being able to honor people who truly deserve it. Last week I attended a celebration event for Healthy Families of Oregon (formerly Healthy Start). The Next Door is the home of Healthy Families of the Columbia Gorge, which has been one of our programs for over 20 years.

At the event, my co-workers were honored for their hard work and dedication.  Together, they have a combined experience of several decades. Tami and Nancy were two of the founding members of the program–starting as volunteers before it was part of Healthy Start in the early 1990s.  How amazing is that?!

From left: Vitalina Rodriquez, Tami Swanson, Nancy Johanson-Paul, Julie Ryan and Elisa Cartwright.

Healthy Families of the Columbia Gorge team members from left: Vitalina Rodriquez, Tami Swanson, Nancy Johanson-Paul, Julie Ryan and Elisa Cartwright.

At the event we also had the delightful experience of being able to honor our community champion, also one of the founding members of the program, Joella Dethman. Julie Ryan, Healthy Families Manager, wrote the following about Joella in her nomination form:

Joella has been involved with Healthy Families from its inception in Hood River County in 1995. She was a part of the early planning meetings and a strong voice for the need of families in the community. She brought together nonprofits, agencies, schools and government entities, using data to determine which program would fit the best in Hood River County with the population that would be targeted for first births.

Joella was instrumental in getting local partners to “get on board” in support of Healthy Start. Through her enthusiasm and commitment to knowing all there was to know about Healthy Start, many partners also embraced the program with physical and financial support.  Joella didn’t stop at the local level, but helped lead the certification process once the policies, practices and procedures were codified for the program. She traveled across the state, providing mentoring for other Healthy Start programs in helping them implement the policies that were instrumental in getting measurable outcomes. Fidelity of programming was her mantra.

A metaphor about her determination is that she “carries the torch” of progress and wouldn’t give up until she saw actions being taken that would help all families receive the quality services they needed. Outcomes for Hood River County include the lowest child abuse and neglect rates in the state in 2012. The families receiving services have benefited the most; receiving the resources and support to raise healthy children in a caring environment.

Joella’s heart is in her work and her work is for the betterment of the community, starting one child at a time, but working towards one system that meshes with another seamlessly. Children and families are always at the center of what she is investing in and she deserves to be recognized for all her investments to make a safer and more nurturing place for children to grow and thrive.

Thank you Joella, for your tireless and contagious spirit of enthusiasm; you really have made a positive difference!


Are Children really like Dogs?

August 27, 2013 - Leave a Response
My dog Rusty sleeps peacefully with his toy

My dog Rusty sleeps peacefully with his toy

Here at The Next Door, we love dogs almost as much as children.  That can be seen as you walk into our dog friendly workplace.  I love it when I find advice that fits both taking care of dogs and kids.  Once again Debby Jones’ YouthThink newsletter has a great article!

10 Things Parents Can Learn From the Dog Whisperer

Have you heard of the Dog Whisperer? He works wonders with dogs, and dog owners, by using methods and routines that can be learned and put into practice. So, taking a page from some of his tactics, here are 10 things parents can learn from the Dog Whisperer.

  1. Be the Alpha Dog. Be confident in your parenting. Let them know you are in charge and are the “alpha-dog.” Your children will pick up on this and be confident in you as their parent/owner.
  2. Give Them Treats. Encourage and praise your children for doing the right thing and showing good behavior, just as you would give your dog a treat for being good.
  3. Be Consistent. Dogs learn new behaviors through repetition and consistency. Be consistent with rules and discipline so lessons can be learned. Inconsistency sends the wrong message.
  4. Play. Puppies are playful, and so are children. Make time in your day to play with your kids and let them be children. Let them act silly, get a little loud and run off some of their puppy energy.
  5. Keep them on a Leash. When dogs are small, they need to be kept close so they don’t run off and get into danger. Children need close supervision too. Even as they leave the tiny puppy stage, you still need to be very aware of the details of their school life and friend life.
  6. Work as a Team. You and your husband should have the same philosophy about raising your children. If you tell your kids no, but your husband goes against you and tells them yes, it’s like a puppy begging at the table—it will go to the person more likely to give it food.
  7. Expand their World. From an early age, children and dogs need to be socialized with people outside the home and with peers. Learning to interact with others is essential and important for development. Once children get older, socialization is still important. Children are easily influenced by their peers so it is important that you as a parent are aware of who your children spend time with.
  8. Lavish Them With Love. We reward every little thing our puppy does right; do the same for your children. Hug them every day. Kiss them and show them all of the love you feel in your heart.
  9. Reprimand Quickly and Then Forgive. Make sure you address behavior issues right away so they are fresh in the child’s mind. Be fair with punishment. Do not hold grudges. Forgive your children, but stay firm with punishments. When the discipline is complete, move on.
  10. Train them for the Long-Term. Put in the time when the child is young and the end result will be good behavior when they’re grown.

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