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Swati Adarkar

President and CEO

Swati Adakar

 

Swati MIYB 2017 web

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has a wealth of experience in research, communications, child advocacy, and public policy development, and is a champion for high-quality early care and education for children pre-birth to age eight. She helped found Children's Institute and has shaped its growth since its inception, first serving as the organization’s vice president of research and communications. Under her leadership, the Institute has helped secure significant increases in public funding for Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten, Early Head Start, and Oregon’s newest preschool program, Preschool Promise. In 2010, Swati helped conceived the Early Works initiative, a community-driven demonstration project with sites in east Portland and southern Oregon. Swati has served on a variety of state committee and advisory councils, including former Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s Oregon's Early Childhood Matters Advisory Council and former Gov. John Kitzhaber's Early Childhood and Family Investment Transition Team. She is currently a member of the PBS Teacher Community Program Advisory Board, the Attendance Works Advisory Committee on Eliminating Chronic Absence, and the International Women’s Forum of Oregon. In 2011, Swati received the Women Leaders of Oregon Award from Portland State University's Center for Women, Politics & Policy. Prior to joining Children’s Institute, she advised nonprofit organizations on public policy and communications, served as policy director for Children First for Oregon, and directed community affairs for Children Now. Swati holds a master's in public administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor's in communications studies from UCLA.

Claire Burdick

Development Associate

claire-baby2 Claire

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children’s Institute in 2013. In her role as development associate, Claire is responsible for writing grant reports and proposals, along with managing the organization's annual giving program. Her role also extends to board relations, web/e-newsletter management, and event coordination. Before joining the Institute, Claire served as the Bill and Melinda Gates advancement intern at the University of Washington. She is a graduate of Lewis & Clark College, where she earned a bachelor's in English literature and Hispanic studies. In addition to receiving a four-year voice scholarship, she was also the recipient of the English Department’s prestigious Jerry Baum award.

Maya Crone

Early Works Site Liaison, Earl Boyles

Maya Crone Maya Crone Adult

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children’s Institute in 2017. Before joining the Institute, she lived and worked in La Paz, Bolivia for 6 ½ years. Maya has a deep background in international project management, policy development and advocating for children and families. Her current role entails developing and evaluating early learning programs, empowering families to assume a leadership role in the Earl Boyles educational community, and collaborating to build and enhance statewide legislation to promote preschool and early learning. Maya holds a MA in international policy studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a BA in Latin American Latino studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Chelsea Greenwood

Office Manager

Child Chelsea Chelsea Greenwood

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children’s Institute in 2016. As the office manager, she is the first face people see when they walk through the Institute’s door and ensures the organization is running smoothly. In addition to her front-of-house and operational duties, Chelsea also plays a key role in database maintenance, event coordination, and special project management. Chelsea has a passion for nature and the environment - she has taught environmental education in Colorado and Oregon, working with ages pre-K to 8th grade, and has also interned at the Oregon Zoo, where she designed and planted a native alpine garden. Chelsea holds a bachelor's in environmental studies with a focus on nature and society from Principia College.

Lindsey Gross

Executive Assistant

Lindsey Gross child web  Lindsey Gross web

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. serves as the primary administrative contact for the President and CEO. Lindsey values the importance of early childhood education and understands the direct relationship between education and quality of life. Prior to joining Children's Institute, she worked for Stand for Children and CASA of Lane County, organizations both dedicated to helping children. A native Oregonian, Lindsey is a graduate of Washington State University, where she earned a BS in psychology with a minor in human development.

Erin Helgren

Early Works Site Liaison, Yoncalla

child Erin Erin Helgren

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined the Institute in November 2015. Erin brings nearly 25 years of experience and knowledge working with young children and families. She has experience in a wide range of programming, including home visiting, early childhood classrooms, parenting education and play to learn groups. Before joining Children’s Institute, Erin worked as the North Douglas County Family Relief Nursery program manager. In this position, she built programming around the unique needs of rural, isolated families. These experiences have given Erin a deeper understanding and insight into the needs of rural communities. She currently lives in rural Oregon. Erin received an associate’s degree in human services/ early childhood studies at the University of Hawaii-Maui and has studied early childhood education at Southern Oregon University.

Dana Hepper

Director of Policy & Program

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Dana

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children's Institute in 2013 after nine years with Stand for Children, most recently as the national director of policy development, where she led a national project to implement Common Core Standards effectively across 10 states. Before that, she was Stand's advocacy director and played a leading role in winning several key pieces of legislation to improve Oregon schools; she also was a community organizer for that group. Dana started her career as an elementary school teacher and pre-K teacher. She graduated from Barnard College with a bachelor's in political science and a minor in elementary education.

Marina Merrill

Senior Research & Policy Advisor

Marina Marina

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children’s Institute in 2013 to lead the organization’s research on prenatal through third-grade issues, evaluation, data collection, and analysis. She also advises Children’s Institute’s advocacy and policy work. Dr. Merrill was instrumental in advocating for and winning a new, mixed-delivery preschool program in Oregon during the 2017 legislative session. She has extensive experience in program evaluation and technical assistance for early learning programs, prenatal to third-grade initiatives at the program and policy level, parenting education programs, home visiting, education reform, safe schools, community partnerships, and school/community health. Dr. Merrill partners with Portland State University on the evaluation of the Early Works initiative. She serves on the statewide Spark Ad Hoc Committee, working to revise the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System and participates in the Partnership for Preschool Improvement team, working to develop a comprehensive professional development system for state-funded preschool.

Prior to Children’s Institute, Dr. Merrill was a Senior Research Associate at RMC Research and Early Childhood Education Specialist at the Oregon Department of Education, where she provided leadership for Oregon’s Even Start Family Literacy and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education programs. She also contributed to the development of the early childhood longitudinal data tracking system and provided statewide professional development on school readiness, including effective teaching strategies in early childhood.

Soobin David Oh

Early Childhood Education Advisor

David Oh Baby pic  David Oh

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.joined Children’s Institute in 2017. He has over 15 years of teaching experience as an early childhood educator and draws his pedagogical inspiration from the pre-primary schools and infant/toddler centers of Reggio Emilia, Italy. His career in early childhood education started as a children’s songwriter. Since then he has been a lead teacher, accreditation specialist, and mentor teacher. Outside of the classroom, David remains committed to the early childhood profession as a consultant to early childhood center-based programs and Head Start schools, and has worked on developing professional standards for early childhood teachers in Oregon with the Oregon Center for Career Development in Childhood Care and Education. David brings joy and passion to his work as a practitioner and as an aspiring scholar: He holds a master’s in early childhood inclusive curriculum and instruction from Portland State University and is working towards his Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction also with PSU.

Rafael Otto

Senior Communications and Policy Associate

Rafael 125x125 Rafael Otto

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. brings 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to Children’s Institute, including a background in communications, education, policy, social services, and strategic planning. He is keenly interested in strengthening communities and systems to improve education and health outcomes for kids across Oregon. Most recently, he worked as the community affairs director for the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance and lead writer for Grantmakers for Education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serves as a board member for Construct Foundation.

Danielle Pacifico-Cogan

Director of Communications and Community Engagement

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is leading the organization’s strategic communications and community engagement efforts. Danielle comes to the Children’s Institute with significant public sector experience focused on public affairs, community engagement, and program management. Prior to joining the Children’s Institute, Danielle owned a boutique wholesale and mail-order bakery.

Paul Reich

Finance and Operations Assistant

Paul  Paul Reich eblast

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is Children’s Institute’s finance and operations assistant. He has over three decades of executive and senior-level leadership service in a variety of nonprofit organizations serving diverse populations. Most recently, Paul worked as a program officer for the Meyer Memorial Trust.

Elena Rivera

Health Policy and Program Advisor

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children’s Institute in 2015. She is responsible for establishing strong linkages between health and early learning at the Early Works demonstration sites as well as in policy and advocacy efforts. Elena has a master's in public health from the University of North Carolina, where she co-chaired the UNC Minority Health Conference and completed her master's project on policy efforts to address social determinants of health at a local health department. Prior to graduate school she coordinated a health and peer education program for underserved high school students at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington DC. Elena completed her undergraduate studies in human biology at Stanford University. She brings a passion for health equity to all of her work, in addition to skills in program evaluation, community engagement, and health policy. Elena currently serves as Vice Chair of the Best Beginnings Committee of Oregon's Early Learning Council.

Carole Shellhart

Director of Finance and Operations

Carole Shellhart Baby Photo web Carole Shellhart web

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  is Children’s Institute Director of Finance and Operations. She brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit finance, management of human resources, team-building, and strategic thinking to the organization. Before joining Children’s Institute, she spent nine years with Oregon Humanities overseeing financial and organizational operations. Carole is an active member of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition and in the past served on the design committee for the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Right Brain Initiative and the steering committee of Tivnu: Building Justice. Carole is an avid supporter of the Oregon Cultural Trust. She holds a nonprofit management executive certificate from Georgetown University and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. 

Kim Thomas

Deputy Director

Kim Thomas child Kim Thomas

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined Children's Institute in November 2016. As deputy director, Kim oversees foundation relations and internal operations. Before joining Children's Institute, Kim worked as a consultant, providing strategic advising and support for nonprofits and philanthropy. From 2006-2015, she was a program officer for Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT), where her personal interests were seeding authentic funder collaborations and helping break down the barriers between philanthropy and the nonprofits and communities they serve.

Prior to her work for MMT, she worked for 16 years at Oregon Food Bank (OFB), leading OFB’s advocacy and public policy work to address the root causes of hunger as well as supervising relationships with 18 regional food banks and over 800 local member programs across Oregon and Southwest Washington. Kim holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama, a Masters of Education from the University of Vermont, and a BA in sociology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. 

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