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Gladstone Center's Success Proves Teamwork Pays Off

May 31, 2011

GLADSTONE, Ore. - In the northwest Oregon town of Gladstone, an old supermarket has been transformed into a health care and early learning center that's making a difference for local families. The Gladstone School District bought the building and brought together about a dozen programs, from Head Start and kindergarten, to Clackamas County mental health services and a clinic staffed by CareOregon.

School superintendent Bob Stewart says their proximity to each other, and to the school, in the town of some 12,000, makes them easier to access. He adds many of the partner groups knew about each other, but had never worked together.

"What it's really about is the relationships between programs. Identify those programs that are serving the needs of young kids and families, make those connections, and begin to have those conversations about how we might serve those families in a more comprehensive way. And that can happen in any community."

He says teachers had voiced concern about an increase in student absences. And with 40 to 50 percent of families in the district being lower-income, they knew many were struggling to find, or afford, health care.

"So, it made a lot of sense that, if we could come up with some way to provide some local support for families, we could improve the situation a lot, whether it's student absences, the general health of our student body, the availability of health care."

The Gladstone Center for Children and Families opened in 2009. Stewart says the collaboration is already paying off with less absenteeism, better school readiness for kindergarteners, and more communication between teachers and social service providers as kids transition between grades. He says he's had inquiries from other towns, in Oregon and elsewhere, about the idea.

The Gladstone Center website is www.gladstone.k12.or.us (the site contains some information, but is under construction).

A CareOregon video about the project is at www.careoregon.org

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR