Since its inception in 2004 the Family Tree Relief Nursery has helped hundreds of children and their families to stay together as a family unit. Family Tree Relief Nursery is the only private, nonprofit organization in the area that provides these complete, integrated services: a therapeutic classroom and nursery, an outreach program and respite, home visitation, parent education and support. Multiple scientific longitudinal studies indicate that integrating these services is effective in reducing recurrences of abuse and neglect in high-risk families by 80%. Family Tree Relief Nursery is a child abuse and neglect prevention program offering free services to low income families with children under the age of 6. We support family stability, and work with children and parents to minimize the need for children to be removed from their home.
I feel good about the work that we do. We are poised to be flexible and responsive to the challenges our families are facing now and in the future. I believe in the work we do and am proud of its impact on children and families in our community. When I took on this leadership role in 2007 we had a staff of four and that included me. Since that time we have grown to a strong organization that serves over 150 families across Linn County annually. We now have a staff of thirty and we continue to grow. Our focus for the future is for us to continue to be flexible and never make assumptions about what our families will need. Both our Board of Directors and our staff are constantly asked to think outside the box about how we can best deliver services to our families that will meet their needs in a society that is changing at a very rapid pace.
'Because we have always done it that way' is not an acceptable answer to any question. We are looking at ways to change and grow to meet the new challenges before us.
We are looking at creative ways to serve more and more families in Albany as well as rural communities across Linn County. People from all walks of life would no doubt benefit from our services. There is a strong level of acknowledgement that we support family stability and prevent abuse and neglect and we do that very successfully. Despite the risk factors that our families face every day, 100% of the children in our therapeutic classroom program stayed with their parents, in their home safely. Currently we are serving families with many more risk factors than the average family. Statewide, the State of Oregon suggests that the average family has 1-2 risk factors and that a family crosses the “high-risk” threshold when they have 5 risk factors. On average, families served by Family Tree had 13.7 risk factors!
We wholeheartedly believe that Healthy Children + Strong Families = Healthy Communities. Relief Nurseries straddle the fence between early childhood education and social services. We are continually looking for ways to lower the height of that fence. Our programs are at the intersection of Health/Early Learning/Strong Families. We are effective because we offer a holistic approach to nurturing our families. We offer comprehensive wrap-around services to both the children and their parents. This would include services such as assistance with recovery from alcohol or drug addiction and crisis support. Our success comes from treating the whole family, treating them with respect and empowering their role as parents.
My husband, Jeff, and I raised two boys here in Albany. Both of them are now off to college. I remember when they were young, there were many days that I struggled with parenting and always wished I could be 100% confident in the job I was doing. Every mom I have ever met wishes she could be a “better” mom. I love that our programs teach moms and dads to be better parents and to be confident they will do the right thing when things get really tough.
Renee describes herself as a Lifelong Learner. She holds a BA in Political Science from Willamette University and a Master’s in Education from Oregon State University. She served a three year term as President of the Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries that ended in 2013.