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St. Anthony sponsored program keeps kids safe and families together in Pendleton

Jenna Caswell has come a long way in three years.

“I was part of the drug life, I was part of the street life, my kids were there with me until they got taken by the state of Oregon and went to foster care.”

She’s been clean and sober for three years, and she has regained custody of her four kids.

Jenna thanks Pioneer Relief Nursery (PRN) for supporting her and her children. “They’ve helped us with clothing, they’ve helped us with parenting,” said Jenna. “They’ve helped us with food when we need it.” Jenna says PRN has helped her obtain housing through the state, and much more.

To watch a video on Jenna and the PRN story, click here.

Jenna’s son Cody is four and attends the pre-school. “When he got here he didn’t talk much,” Jenna said. That’s common for children who have experienced trauma, said PRN Executive Director Libby Hoffman. Now Cody is a lively, talkative child getting ready for kindergarten. He loves his teachers and looks forward to seeing them during home visits.  

Pioneer Relief Nursery is a child abuse and neglect prevention program supported with community benefit funding by CHI St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton. St. Anthony donates and maintains the building, and supports many of the programs, like the clothes closet and diaper drives.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” said St. Anthony President Harry Geller. “It’s gratifying that we can be involved in a project that builds stronger families, keeps families together.”

Most families are referred to PRN through substance abuse treatment programs, and this year all of them live below the federal poverty line. The programs address risk factors that cause stress for parents and children, often leading to child abuse and neglect. These prevention efforts were successful in 99% of the families in 2019.  

Teachers at PRN focus on helping children regulate their emotions both in and out of the classroom. They also work on helping parents bond with their children. The goal is to position the kids for success in school, and adults for successful parenting. `

Hoffman says just knowing they have someone in their corner can give parents hope where none existed before.

Jenna Caswell is a great example of that. Her face lights up when she talks about her home, her job, and her kids’ happiness. She is supporting her family.

“It feels great to be where I’m at, because I’ve done this with my support team.”