White Shield Offers Support, Structure to Young Moms
Once a maternity home where unwed mothers from all over the United States came to give birth–and usually surrender their babies for adoption–Portland’s White Shield Center now provides residential treatment for abused and disturbed teenage girls who are pregnant or parenting an infant.
Here, they are provided shelter, counseling, schooling, medical care, parenting education, and therapeutic child care services. Clients may remain in the program until their baby is 2 years old. All are wards of the State of Oregon. White Shield also offers short-term emergency shelter and schooling for teenagers whom the state has removed from unsafe homes.
“Many of the girls who come here have been severely abused and have severe loss issues,” stated Clinical Director Robin Carlson. While the average mother is 15 or 16 years old, one recent resident was only 11 years old. “That was pretty hard on the staff,” said Carlson. Ninety percent have abused drugs and alcohol. About 200 young girls and 30 babies are cared for each year.
Nestled in the hills of Northwest Portland, the gracious old home–surrounded by an abundance of trees, flowers, and green lawn–provides a safe and tranquil setting in which to heal hurt lives. Nurturing and individual attention has resulted in some girls in the school program advancing two grade levels in just 60 days. White Shield has a staff of 50, under the leadership of Executive Director Richard Repert.
“There is one of the best staffs here I’ve ever seen,” said Major Kurt Burger. “Many are long term. I have a great deal of confidence in this institution.”