Opening planned for mid-July
A courtroom is no place for children. That's why the Multnomah County Bar Association Foundation started CourtCare at the main county courthouse in Portland, and now they're expanding to the East County Courthouse in Gresham.
When the courthouse was built at Southeast 185th Avenue and Stark Street in the Rockwood neighborhood in 2012, it included a room that was set aside for a future CourtCare, free child care for people who need to take care of legal matters. But there wasn't enough demand for child care at the time.
But now the county is expanding services, particularly in family court for East County, and more people with children are likely to be involved.
Judge Nan Waller of the Multnomah County Circuit Court announced the additional East County court services at a Multnomah Bar Association event last week, which includes the addition of a family court judge all day Wednesdays as well as restraining order and other hearings for a half-day on Mondays. Also, this fall a family law judge will hear civil cases on the first Monday of the month.
Guy Walden, executive director of the bar association, said the plan is for the expanded family law services to begin July 7 and he hopes the room for CourtCare is ready by then.
I think we will get it open in time, he said. We had to repaint the room and get shelving for the kids.
Items needed include board games, arts and crafts supplies, books, train or car tracks, two area rugs, dolls, LEGO bricks, puzzles, soft toys, infant toys, a locking file cabinet and a rocking chair.
CourtCare was begun by the bar association in the downtown Portland courthouse in 2001, Walden said, and the East County child care service will follow the same model and will be available to children from 6 weeks of age to 10 years.
It's operated by Volunteers of America Oregon and we have served over 12,000 children, he said.
According to the Volunteers of America website, the free child care provides a much-needed service.
Harsh words, confrontations, possibly even seeing a parent in handcuffs these are traumatic experiences for young children who have to tag along when family members are involved in court actions, the website states. Or, they may find things so boring that crawling under tables or creating a fuss becomes an irresistible urge. Children find it impossible to sit quietly in the courtroom.
When parents cannot afford child care, those kind of disruptions become the norm. On average, about 100 children per month come through ChildCare at the Portland courthouse, the website states.
Most often, mothers drop off children while seeking restraining orders against husbands over domestic violence issues, the VOA website states. But all parents whether they've come because of custody battles, to stop court proceedings or simply to handle a traffic ticket are grateful to find his nurturing and safe environment for their children.
Amy Angel, who heads up fundraising for CourtCare for the bar association, has also requested financial support from Multnomah County. She said all donations are appreciated, whether it's $5, $10 or $50. The bar association has already raised $75,000 to run the center, Walden said, and bar association members are contributing $10,000 for start-up costs.
This has been a fabulous program in the downtown courthouse and we feel it's proven its worth with access and administration to justice, Angel said.