Multnomah CourtCare

Multnomah CourtCare, a free drop-in child care center in the Multnomah County Courthouse, is a project of the MBA, provided at no cost to families who must go to court. Operated by Volunteers of America Oregon for the MBA, it serves 80 to 100 children and their families every month.

Donate to CourtCare now.

While the program receives some public funding, it depends primarily on the financial support of the legal community, which contributes through the Multnomah Bar Foundation. The Foundation is tax exempt under section 501(c)(3), and contributions are tax deductible.

To learn more about the program, watch Multnomah County Circuit Court Judges explain its importance. This four-minute video is a Windows Media Player file (.wmv).

CourtCare Fundraising Campaign

You can make a donation online or print out a CourtCare Donation Card and mail it with your contribution. You can also call the MBA at 503.222.3275 if you would like to use a credit card over the phone.

In 2012 the MBA raised over $100,000 to support the CourtCare program. The campaign chair for 2013 is Amy Angel of Barran Liebman.

We encourage all MBA Members to donate to the Multnomah Bar Foundation - "CourtCare". Every dollar helps, and we very much appreciate contributions of any size.

CourtCare in the News

CourtCare Remodel

In the spring of 2011 the Markowitz, Herbold, Glade & Mehlhaf law firm organized a remodel of the CourtCare space. Mary Rower, a paralegal at the firm led the project and with financial and in-kind support from her firm, as well as that of architects and many contractors, the room was transformed to provide more efficient use of the upgraded space. More information about the remodel can be found in the articles referenced below.

The History of Multnomah CourtCare

"Lawyers loving children" is how Kay Toran, VOA Oregon President described the Multnomah CourtCare program. The free daycare will celebrate its ninth anniversary in 2010, but its story actually began more an 11 years earlier. The MBA Court Liaison Committee asked Judge Janice Wilson and attorney Gerri Sue Lent in 1995 to co-chair a task force charged with exploring the need for childcare at the Multnomah County Courthouse.

A study conducted by Portland State University Department of Sociology for the task force and completed in 1997 found that an average of 80 children under the age of 13 were in the court building every day. The PSU students interviewed and surveyed attorneys, judges and courthouse staff, whose anecdotes confirmed that children were frequently brought to courtrooms with family members where they witnessed conflict and disturbing scenes, and that their presence could be disruptive to court business.

Convinced of the need to address this situation, the MBA formed a new Multnomah CourtCare Advisory Board the following year and charged it with exploring the cost and feasibility of developing an on-site drop-in childcare center to serve families who must bring children with them to the court building. The group, which included representatives of Multnomah County as well as the courts and the legal community, spent the next two years looking at courthouse childcare programs in other states, exploring liability and licensing issues, and by far the biggest challenge due to the courthouse's limited space and strict state and local requirements for childcare facilities - was finding a suitable room within the building. The task force was determined to site the program within the courthouse, if at all possible, fearing that an off-site location would be a deterrent for families.

Just when the quest for space appeared to be futile, the judges of the Multnomah Circuit Court, under the leadership of then-Presiding Judge James Ellis (and thanks to persuasive lobbying by Judge Wilson) decided to make room 214, an infrequently-used jury room, available to the CourtCare project. State childcare licensing staff gave the go-ahead for a waiver allowing siting of a childcare facility on the second floor, and then-Multnomah County Chair Beverly Stein made several all-important commitments to the project. She proposed use of the county's contracting authority for an agreement with a provider of childcare services, included the entire cost of renovating the room in her capital project budget, and offered the county's financial partnership - contingent upon commitment of a matching amount from the State of Oregon - in supporting the center's operating costs.

Soon after, three critical pieces that led directly to CourtCare's opening fell into place. First, as a result of the advocacy of Doug Bray, Multnomah County Circuit Court's Trial Court Administrator and the support of Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 2001 approved a note permitting the Multnomah County Circuit Court to include a contribution to CourtCare's operating costs in its budget. (That note has been renewed in each legislative session since.) Second, VOA Oregon, a respected and experienced local provider of family services, responded to the Request for Proposals to operate the center and was awarded the contract.

Finally, the MBA pledged to make substantial contributions in the first few years of operation and also offered to assist in raising the additional funds necessary to enable CourtCare's doors to open in late 2001.

The CourtCare program has provided care to over 7,000 children, improved access to justice for their families, and smoothed courthouse operations. This success story - Oregon's only full-time drop-in childcare program in a court building - is possible because of a unique and varied ongoing partnership that includes, in addition to Multnomah County and the Oregon Judicial Department:

  • The steadfast support of a succession of MBA Presidents (Albert Menashe, Ruth Beyer, Bob Newell, Michael Greene, Robert Neuberger, Sylvia Stevens, Kelly Hagan, Peter Glade, Thom Brown and Michael Dwyer), backed by Guy Walden, MBA Executive Director, Judy Edwards, former MBA Executive Director and Mona Buckley, former MBA Executive Director.
  • The generosity of the Multnomah County legal community, which raised $65,000 in 2004, $91,000 in 2005, $107,000 in 2006, $113,000 in 2007 and $115,000 in 2008 through firm and individual donations, in the annual "Jungle Gym in the Jungle Campaign."
  • The many dedicated people who have served on and come to countless meetings of the CourtCare Advisory Board and the MBA CourtCare Fundraising Committee.
  • Annual donations and other behind-the-scenes support from Oregon Women Lawyers.
  • A $12,500 donation in the current fiscal year from the Federal US District Court Attorney Admission Fund, in exchange for access to the program for families with business before the federal courts.
  • Advocacy and commitment from the Multnomah County bench. Its presiding judges, formerly Judge James R. Ellis, Judge Dale R. Koch, Judge Jean K. Maurer  and currently Judge Nan Waller have been enthusiastic and eloquent spokesmen; Judges Henry Kantor, Keith Meisenheimer, Katherine Tennyson, and Janice Wilson have served on the CourtCare Advisory Board and/or the CourtCare Campaign Committee; Judge Kristina La Mar helps make sure the center is always stocked with the stuffed animals that are given to each child to take home; and many judges are regular donors.
  • Last, but not least, the heart of CourtCare: the nurturing, developmentally-appropriate care provided daily to young children, many of them from families who are struggling with violence or poverty or other challenges, by the VOA Oregon CourtCare staff.


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