Portland Children’s Levy
2022 Community Report
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into a second challenging year, the Portland Children’s Levy grantee partners relied on their deep relationships to connect with and support community members.
Grantee partners adjusted to a new reality of providing many services virtually, and they creatively engaged youth and families once in-person opportunities became safely available. Many organizations also provided food and other necessities to stabilize families.
The pandemic only heightened the need for the programs supported by the Portland Children’s Levy. Thanks to voter investments, the Levy works to prepare children for school, support children’s success inside and outside of school, and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in children’s wellbeing and school success.
The information in this Community Report covers the 2020–21 fiscal year, as organizations faced continued uncertainty with the pandemic, staffing shortages, and other challenges. Black, Indigenous, people of color, and other historically marginalized community members also faced ongoing structural and institutional barriers.
2020-21 GRANTS AWARDED
Supporting children’s early development and kindergarten readiness
Expanding access to healthy food for children and their families
Supporting children’s well-being and school success
Supporting the well-being and development of children in foster care
Child abuse prevention & intervention
Stabilizing families, building resilience and preventing child abuse and neglect
Community childcare initiative
Making quality childcare affordable for low-income working families
Connecting children with caring mentors who support their well-being
Improving equity of access for organizations that have not received previous Levy funding (6 months in 2020-21)
children served by Levy grants
identified as Black, Indigenous and people of color *‡
lived in homes in which the primary language spoken was not English *
0%lived or went to school east of 82nd Avenue *
pounds of food distibuted to more than 20,000 children
* These numbers cover five program areas: early childhood, after school, child abuse prevention and intervention, mentoring, and foster care. Small grants funding is for a 6-month period that started on Jan. 1, 2021.
‡ This number includes people who identify as Latinx, African American, Native American/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian, Slavic, Middle Eastern, African, or multiracial.
Connecting through art
Like schools that switched to virtual learning during the pandemic, many after-school programs found creative ways to adapt their offerings into a digital format. Latino Network’s Studio Latino launched a virtual version of their after-school art and culture classes, where youth learn from Latinx artists and role models.
During a pandemic filled with trauma for many families, the classes offered a safe and welcoming space for students to engage with fun activities and develop positive skills and behaviors.
Courtney Acosta Grates
Mother of a student who participated in Studio Latino three terms
Maritza showing her artwork in Latino Network’s Studio en Casa virtual class.
“Maritza loved the class, and we appreciate all the projects. It has been the light in the darkness during these pandemic times. Maritza waits with excitement to begin her Mondays. It has been her motivation to attend school, and it has been a great help for me to continue giving her happy moments.”
Caring and supportive mentors helped children engage with school and provided important social connections, especially as many students attended school through a computer screen. The individualized attention in one-on-one sessions and small group mentoring programs allowed many students an opportunity to experience social connections and build interpersonal skills despite not being in a physical classroom.
Virtual school limited the ability of many organizations to recruit new participants, including Camp Fire Columbia, and introductions by teachers proved key to successful recruitment. Despite the challenges, Camp Fire Columbia served more than 100 students at George, Lane and Harrison Park middle schools.
Camp Fire Columbia students participate in marshmallow challenges and team building activities.
Camp Fire Columbia
“A student in the sixth-grade program at George Middle School saw some awesome success with his yearly goal map. This student worked toward a dream to become a film director, and bought himself a video camera to make higher-quality home videos. He recorded a video to share about how the incentive goals worked for him at Camp Fire.”
site supervisor at Harrison Park Middle School
”PCL funding at Harrison Park supported youth to make memories that will last a lifetime; memories that carry perseverance, embody trust and instill the skills necessary to build relationships that are transformative and support the success of each young person.”
Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention
Growing parent networks
Building and sustaining support networks throughout the pandemic provided stability and resources for parents and families. At Lutheran Community Services Northwest, the new Parenting in Portland series of classes served more than a hundred children and 35 families in its first year, with many virtual sessions. The program provides parenting support to immigrants and refugee families from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Burma.
Parenting in Portland was able to convene the first in-person community healing process in May 2021, which also launched the group parenting meeting and emotional support discussions.
Parenting in Portland case manager
“One of the families we worked with who positively impacted our program is a refugee family from East Africa. During their time in our program, this family became involved in leading a community group for young women and young moms with children. This family's goal is to start their own nonprofit in the next five years where women's voices in their communities are elevated and where women feel supported and empowered to pursue their dreams in careers and higher education. We are proud of this family, and how they are contributing to the work of Parenting in Portland.”
Lutheran Community Services NW, including Parenting in Portland case manager RNM, distributed food boxes and supplies to families throughout the pandemic.
associate district director at Lutheran Community Services NW
“What we have accomplished is that our collective voices of pain and resiliency is stronger than it was when this program started approximately a year ago.”
Physical distancing requirements pushed home visitors at Impact NW’s Parent-Child Development Services program to create a new “Craft with Us” play group. The program provides child development and parenting supporting to families with children ages 5 and younger. The play group activities allowed different household members to help children create crafts using materials delivered by home visitors in advance. Kits included crayons, coloring sheets, puzzles, scissors, glue and other materials.
Impact’s Community Dads Group maintained virtual groups throughout much of the year, though participation was less regular than typical.
The Parent-Child Development Services program started a Facebook group where interested parents could access short videos made by staff reading stories, suggesting activities and sharing resources. Posts were uploaded about twice a week in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Russian and Arabic.
Staff from Impact NW created a “Craft with Us” play group to promote enjoyable moments for children to explore materials as part of shared experiences with other household members.
“We realized the difficulty behind children staying focused on the screen, so some play groups became more parent‐oriented in which they check-in and hear from each other the way they were doing self-care. Home visitors would bring opening questions that could facilitate conversations between parents around healthy practices or how to stay positive. Parents appreciated the space to talk, for them to see each other, which helped them with thriving and to know that others were having the same experiences."
Boys & Girls Aid was able to provide in-person sessions starting in fall 2020 to youth in foster care and families to strengthen relationships and build toward permanency .The program provides therapeutic activities that help youth ages 5 to 21 process separation and loss and increase attachment to their permanent caregivers, as well as training and support to caregivers. Some services had to be adjusted, though staff found that the ultimate desire for permanency remained consistent among the families they worked with, allowing for strong participation and engagement.
permanency specialist at Boys & Girls Aid
“I’m very proud of the progress that multiple children and families have been able to make over the past year, despite their personal struggles with COVID affecting day-to-day life. Some of the children were unable to identify and vocalize any of their previous traumas or hardships. Through our work and their strong engagement, many of the children are now able to have lengthy discussions about previous hardships, how they are adjusting to a new family, and where they can see themselves in the future.”
The pandemic saw explosive growth in demand for hunger relief programs, and many grantee partners who didn’t previously provide direct assistance partnered with other community groups to provide the resources families needed.
Growing Gardens’ Youth Grow program distributed more than 5,000 cooking and gardening kits at 12 schools, tailoring kit projects to classes and school communities from preschoolers to high schoolers. The program provides gardening education at school sites with school‐age youth and offers garden‐grown food to families. Children and families enjoyed more than 1,200 pounds of fresh garden produce distributed at the schools.
program director, Youth Grow
Angeles Martinez Silverio harvests green beans and demonstrates how to make tortillas as part of Youth Grow.
“We developed and implemented online classes in Spanish at the two schools with Spanish immersion programs. Angeles Martinez Silverio, one of the Youth Grow staff who is from Mexico, taught lessons on the cultural and ecological practice of growing the “Three Sisters” (beans, squash and corn). She showed students the diversity of corn grown in Mexico, demonstrated the process of nixtamalization, milling, and making tortillas. Students received kits with materials to make tortillas at home (masa, a plastic circle and recipe card) so that they could follow along. She shared that, although some students had parents from Mexico, most students had never understood the process of making tortillas and they were excited to learn about it (and taste it!)”
Small Grants Fund
The pandemic also exacerbated many of the structural and institutional barriers faced by Black, Indigenous, people of color and community members from marginalized backgrounds.
Many of the families served by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural Resource Center, a Levy small grants fund partner, are recent immigrants and refugees learning about new social, cultural and governmental systems. Before the pandemic, families could go into an office for an in-person meeting with an interpreter. The pandemic made it more difficult to navigate and access the services families qualified for since everything went online.
Overcoming the technology barriers allowed the cultural resource center to focus more on other services and programs. A Levy-funded mentoring program that started with 7 participants grew to 26, with 30 more on the waiting list by the end of 2021, said Sonya Damtew, education department manager at the center.
education department manager
“The families have been isolated for months already and were having difficulty accessing COVID information, food and supplies as well as feeling overwhelmed with fear and helplessness in not being able to help their children’s online schooling. It was imperative to start the program with teaching them the technological aspect of using their laptops for online schooling, how to access and share their screens, complete assignments and turn them in on-time, and to communicate with their teachers for help or questions. Since most of them arrived in the U.S. recently, the online education system was an additional hurdle to the already challenging times they were facing. Parents felt better knowing that they have a mentor/tutor who helps them navigate the school system and keep the youth focused.”
Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural Resource Center
Hosana, 13 (right)
Arrived in US in 2019 and has participated in EECRC activities since 2020
“I get to meet new people. My grades have improved. Last year, I had one B, one C and the rest As. And now I’ve got all As. My favorite is math. When you understand it, you get to enjoy it more. And I learned ping pong!“
Promises made, promises kept
A complete list of current grantee partners can be accessed on the Portland Children’s Levy website.
Stay tuned for next year’s community report to learn more about how voter investments improve the lives of Portland children and families.
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