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Swati Adarkar

President and CEO

Swati Adakar

 

Swati

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 8. She helped found Children's Institute and has shaped its growth since its inception, first serving as vice president of research and communications. Swati was an instrumental leader in the 2007 expansion of Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten. She conceived the Institute's Early Works initiative, and with David Douglas School District and Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, the Children's Institute launched the first demonstration site at Earl Boyles Elementary School in east Portland in 2010. Swati served on Oregon's first Early Childhood Matters Advisory Council for former Gov. Ted Kulongoski and on former Gov. John Kitzhaber's Early Childhood and Family Investment Transition Team. She received the 2011 Women Leaders of Oregon Award from Portland State University's Center for Women, Politics & Policy, and is a member of the Board of Trustees for Portland State University and the International Women's Forum of Oregon. Prior to joining CI, she advised nonprofit organizations on public policy and communications, served as policy director for Children First for Oregon, and was director of community affairs for Children Now. She has 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

Executive Assistant & 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 addition to serving as the primary administrative contact for the President and CEO, she is also a member of the organization’s development team. 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.

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 the 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.

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

Dana_child

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 and to deepen its internal expertise around evaluation, data collection and analysis. Dr. Merrill also advises Children’s Institute’s on its advocacy and policy work. She was instrumental in advocating for and winning a new, mixed-delivery preschool program in Oregon during the 2015 legislative session. Additionally, she continues to advocate and work to improve policies that support the continuity and coherence of the educational continuum starting at birth. She has extensive experience in program evaluation and technical assistance in support of a wide range of early learning programs, prenatal to grade three initiatives at the program and policy level, parenting education programs, home visiting, education reform, safe schools, community partnerships, and school and community health. Prior to working with Children’s Institute, she was a senior research associate at RMC Research. Before that, she was an 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. Dr. Merrill partners with Portland State University on the evaluation of the Early Works initiative, in addition to providing internal expertise; she leads sharing key lessons learned and proof points from both Early Works sites. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in human development and family studies from Oregon State University, and holds a B.A. in psychology from University of California, Riverside.

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

claire-baby2 Claire

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

Elena kiddo Elena headshot

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 under-served 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.

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. 

Doug Wells

Chief Development & Financial Officer

doug-child Doug

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined the Institute in 2012 after seven years directing finance and operations at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Prior to that, Doug spent many years in management at companies such as Home Depot, Intel and Mentor Graphics, as well as 10 years at the North Carolina Outward Bound School. He brings a balance of business skills and a passion for the Institute’s mission. He chairs Oregon’s Quality Education Commission, is board member and past president of the National Board of Directors of Parents for Public Schools, and serves on the board of the Northwest Outward Bound School. His other education involvement includes five years as chair of the PPS Citizens Budget Review Committee, sitting on the Mayor/County Chair’s Education Cabinet, and serving as a regular education blogger for the Chalkboard Project. He received a bachelor's in mathematics with minors in computer science and History from Stetson University.

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