The History of CourtCare
In 1995, the MBA Court Liaison Committee asked Judge Janice Wilson and attorney Gerri Sue Lent to co-chair a task force charged with exploring the need for childcare at the Multnomah County Courthouse. Two years later, students from Portland State University's Department of Sociology interviewed and surveyed attorneys, judges and courthouse staff, whose anecdotes highlighted the need for onsite childcare in the courthouse.
The MBA formed the Multnomah CourtCare Advisory Board to explore the cost and feasibility of the project. Under the leadership of then-Presiding Judge James Ellis, the judges of the Multnomah Circuit Court determined that room 214, an infrequently-used jury room, would be made available as a drop-in childcare center. State childcare licensing staff approved and then-Multnomah County Chair Beverly Stein proposed the use of the county's contracting authority for an agreement with a provider of childcare services, included the cost of renovations 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.
Volunteers of America 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. The MBA pledged to make substantial contributions and also offered to assist in raising the additional funds necessary to enable CourtCare's doors to open in late 2001 in the historic Central Courthouse located at 1021 SW Fourth Avenue in downtown Portland. Since that time, CourtCare has served 80-100 children per month.
In the spring of 2011 the Markowitz, Herbold, Glade & Mehlhaf law firm organized a remodel of the CourtCare space in the Multnomah County Courthouse. Mary Rower, a paralegal at the firm, led the project that transformed the room to allow for more efficient use of the space. You can read more about the hard work that led to this project here.
A New Space in a New Courthouse
In 2020, the Multnomah County Circuit Court moved to a new state-of-the-art courthouse located at 1200 SW First Avenue and now features a bright, cheerful childcare space designed for the program, three times the size of the original room and able to serve twice as many children.