Michaella Sektnan, evaluation specialist with the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and data analyst with the Oregon Child Care Research Partnership, both part of the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families at OSU.

Years at OSU: 12

City of residence: Independence, Ore.

Michaella Sektnan loves working with kids and families.

As an evaluation specialist with the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative (OPEC), Sektnan works with organizations statewide to get effective resources into the hands of parents, giving them the tools they need to help their children succeed.

The other half of her job is spent researching child care in Oregon, a state with so few options it’s actually classified as a “child care desert.”

And in her “spare” time, she’s spent the last 12 years volunteering with foster kids, first as a court-appointed child advocate and now as a coordinator of monthly “Night Out” events and co-director of an annual week-long summer camp for children in foster care through the nonprofit organization Royal Family Kids.

“Before coming to OSU, I was a case worker for a couple years, and really have a heart for children in foster care and their families,” Sektnan said. “Once a month, we do a Night Out for any family who is fostering, or raising relatives, or who has adopted from the child welfare system. So we are serving a range of families who are providing care for children who aren’t their own.”

Their Night Out events serve roughly 25 families and 80 kids a year, including both foster and biological children of foster parents. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 shutdown, they haven’t been able to meet in person for the last two months.

In the absence of physical community gatherings, Sektnan put together a list of links to resources that would be helpful for families during this new and difficult time.

The list was so good that her team at OSU decided to send it to families through OPEC, as well.

Sektnan and other volunteers with the Night Out have also been sending letters to the kids in their program, aiming for each child to get a letter (complete with stickers) at least once a month. Other volunteers send their letters to Sektnan and she puts them together in packages for families and sends them out.

At OSU, the OPEC team has been stepping up its support of partner organizations around the state, helping them transition to online delivery of resources and services when possible. Some groups were ready to move online; others have had to scramble.

“We don’t have much direct contact with families, but we’re trying to support the people who do,” Sektnan said.

~ Molly Rosbach

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