A career in Criminal Justice and Public Safety was not what John Foote had planned before attending The Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland. But shortly after graduation and discovering a personal interest in working with emotionally distressed youth, John found a fulfilling way to put his legal training to use in service to others by accepting a position as Deputy District Attorney for Multnomah County.
“It wasn’t a month into the job I realized it was well-suited for me,” Foote said. “I’m a value-driven person. This line of work is value-based, and underscores fundamental principles of justice and safety. Seeking the truth appealed to me, so I threw myself into it passionately.”
Before the arrival of collaborative, child focused agencies such as Children’s Center, John regularly met with victims of abuse and neglect, both in his office and the courtroom. Many were reliving the trauma of abuse from multiple interviews with local law enforcement and child protective workers.
“It was an extremely powerful experience for me to try to gain their trust and I knew that if I did anything to violate that trust, I wouldn’t get it back because they had been fundamentally betrayed many times,” Foote said.
As he continued to work with kids and families experiencing abuse as a prosecuting attorney, Foote was approached about the concept of a child abuse intervention center- a specialized clinic where trained professionals would provide medical examinations, forensic interviews, and family support services for children to share their stories in a safe and neutral setting. Recognizing how this model would put the needs of kids first, while helping him convict offenders, he kept the model in the back of his mind.
When John joined the Clackamas County District Attorney’s office in 2001, the development of a child abuse intervention center in Clackamas County was becoming a major topic of discussion. At that point, children who were neglected or abused in Clackamas County would have to travel to Northeast Portland to be seen at Multnomah County’s intervention center. Citizens in Clackamas County were interested in a better, more convenient option for local children.
As conversations progressed and community support grew, John recognized that the status quo was no longer adequate. By focusing on the core services, medical professionals, and a model that had proven to be best for the kids, he knew the project would be a game-changer for Clackamas County. Garnering support and visionary leadership from Anderson Dabrowski Architects and former Children’s Center Executive Director Tonia Hunt, John believed the idea of easier access to quality care and ongoing support for children and families would galvanize the public to open Children’s Center. And he was right.
As the Founding Chair of the Children’s Center Board, John played a pivotal role in bringing child abuse intervention and assessment services to Clackamas County. Facing a myriad of challenges, Foote united community leaders and partners to establish Children’s Center in 2002.
Over the past 15 years, John has remained a leading proponent and advocate for Children’s Center. He continues to serve on the Children’s Center Board and currently chairs the Board Development Committee. He’s also a significant contributor to the Clackamas County Multi-Disciplinary Team, which unites Children’s Center, law enforcement, the Department of Human Services and educators in the fight against child abuse and neglect. In 2012, John was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on Public Safety. He has also helped to launch many innovative justice programs including HOPE Court, Mental Health Court, Truancy Court, Domestic Violence Response Team and the Clackamas County Elder Abuse Task Force.
In 2017 Children’s Center recognized John’s significant contributions to the agency, by presenting him with the very first “Quilt Maker Award" at Children's Center Honors. In a moving acceptance speech, John disclosed his own experiences of abuse in public for the first time, revealing why he is so passionate about this cause. Afterwards, he received affectionate feedback from longtime friends, colleagues, and guests who gave him an extended standing ovation and waited in line to speak with him following the program.
“I was overwhelmed by the experience,” Foote said. “I could see the story in their eyes. I knew they had been directly impacted by this issue.”
Thank you, John, for your ongoing commitment to this important work.