Kerr History


William MacLaren founded the Portland Commons Mission for Homeless Men and Returning Prisoners, the name was later changed to the Pacific Coast Rescue and Protective Society. In 1908, the Portland Commons bought the Louise house to serve women and children as well, beginning the shift toward providing care for mothers and babies.


Alexander Kerr married Albertina Sechtem in 1910. A strong advocate for helping the city’s many homeless children, she died suddenly of typhus in 1911. After her death, Alexander gave the Society their family home in Northwest Portland to be used as a nursery in her honor. The Albertina Kerr Nursery Home provides adoption services and day-care for children of single mothers.


Due to increasing need, larger quarters for the Louise Home are found on nine acres of farm and forest on what is now NE 162nd. Over the years, a new Louise Home is built and additional buildings are added to support different types of services. The Wynne Watts School (named for a former medical director) opened on this campus in 1938 and operates as a school today.


The original Kerr nursery soon ran out of room and, following a fundraising campaign by Alexander’s third wife, Ruth Kerr, and Margaret Bondurant, a new nursery was built on this site in 1921. The building operated as an adoption home until 1967, when services moved towards foster homes and community-based care.

1940s & 50s

In 1940, the Louise Home and the Albertina Kerr Nursery incorporated under the name of Albertina Kerr Homes. With fundraising help from the community in 1956, Kerr built cottages on the campus to offer safe residential treatment to young children.


1960s & 70s

Albertina Kerr began an innovative "continuum of care" program for children with mental health challenges, creating residential and outpatient psychiatric treatment services for children, and counseling for their families. Foster care families were recruited and trained to provide care for children with special needs. The Albertina Kerr Nursery building closed for renovation in 1967.

Toward the end of this era, Salem’s Fairview Training Center, the state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities, began making plans to move its residents to community-based homes. Albertina Kerr later stepped in and began programs for individuals with developmental disabilities, opening the Kerr Center for Handicapped Children on the Marylhurst campus.

1980s & 90s

As the state of Oregon takes steps towards closure of Fairview, Albertina Kerr opened neighborhood group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. Albertina Kerr began supported living services and significantly expanded employment services and life skills training for people with developmental disabilities.

In 1997, with $3.2 million raised from community donations, Albertina Kerr constructed a new building on the campus and began operating a Crisis Psychiatric Care program for children experiencing a mental health crisis as well as a residential Intensive Treatment program.

2000 & Beyond

In 2001, Albertina Kerr formed an innovative partnership with Morrison Child and Family Services, to recruit and train foster care providers.

Albertina Kerr continues to increase its focus on community-based care with additional neighborhood based group homes for adolescents with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges, community based early intervention care for very young children, and an innovative wraparound service that provides coordinated care for children.

Kerr Bikes fun rentals opened in 2009, providing employment experience for teens in Kerr programs and raising funds. In 2012, Albertina Kerr acquired three new community inclusion programs for adults with developmental disabilities: Art from the Heart, the Snack Squad and Cans for Kids. In 2013, Port City Development was acquired.

In October of 2013, Albertina Kerr acquired the assets of Children's Developmental Health Services (Children's). Children's specializes in treatment of children with developmental delays and disabilities as well as adult audiology services. Together, the organizations are better poised to meet both the physical and behavioral health needs of the most vulnerable.