May is Foster Care awareness month and this week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to Brooke Gray, a nonprofit leader, determined seeker of justice, and Executive Director for every child! Brooke grew up in Southeast Portland and graduated from Portland Christian High School. She went on to college at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) where she studied journalism and nonprofit management.
Brooke worked for global nonprofits for nearly a decade. She had a permanent base in Portland but traveled extensively, doing international community development work. While in Rwanda, she noticed many families had kids who weren’t biological – the community was taking care of its own. She’d return home to Portland and was struck by the juxtaposition of a Rwandan community with a safety net, and the one in her own backyard, without. Brooke realized she didn’t feel grounded in her OWN community and started looking for ways to make a difference closer to home. She called friends of friends, who she knew had experience in the foster care system, and was led to Embrace Oregon, which at the time was just getting off the ground. That’s how Brooke and her husband became foster parents – providing a warm, calm space for kiddos who haven’t always been able to count on a warm, calm space.
Brooke says the best way to foster is to grow attachments and LOVE these kids as hard as you possibly can. Since the goal of foster care is reunification with biological parents, the process can be incredibly painful. The first time she and her husband became long-term (longer than a weekend) foster parents, they took in a 15-month old. For a year and a half, they cared for and adored that sweet little girl as if she were their own – then she was reunited with her dad. Brooke selflessly points out that’s the best thing for the child – to know her parents fought for her – even while Brooke’s own heart breaks for the loss of that beautiful little girl. That’s why she describes fostering as hard, messy and beautiful, all at once! And in spite of the pain, Brooke believes our hearts never lose the capacity to love. She knows she’ll love like that again.
Brooke is currently the Executive Director of Government Partnerships with the Portland Leadership Foundation. She oversees the child welfare system. She loves living in Portland because she appreciates the strong social justice bent and the way the city is committed to equity – that, and the fact that for a city of its size, Portland’s amenities are impressive – the food, culture, sports, wine, etc!
In her free time, she loves to cook and loves to exercise – CrossFit is pretty fun, especially when it benefits kids in foster care! Consider joining Brooke on May 18th, when four Cross Fit gyms are hosting workouts specifically to raise money for the kids. If that’s not your thing, there are so many other ways to get involved this month – check out the volunteer expo hosted by Every Child May 14th for other ways you can support kids in foster care.
#WCW #fostercare #changemakers #showup #equity #dogoodbegood