Robin Karr-Morse

Robin is a family therapist in private practice in Portland Oregon—a role she has maintained for 35 years. She has designed and directed three statewide programs in Oregon each of which focused on scaffolding vulnerable parents in the challenging task of building healthy children from the beginning of life. The first of these was Pre-Parenting Training, a mental health based class for juniors and seniors in  Oregon high schools.  The second was Oregon’s Parent Training program for families involved in the child welfare system due to child abuse and neglect, : she created , trained and directed the program with staff serving all 36  counties. Subsequently, Robin became  the founding director of the Oregon Children’s Trust Fund, the states only funding source dedicated exclusively to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. A member of the T. Berry Brazelton seminar faculty, she was the sole paid consultant to the Oregon legislature’s Children’s Care Team from 1991-93, the largest interim committee ever created to redesign services for families to prevent rather than simply trying to remediate child abuse and neglect. Oregon subsequently led the nation in providing universal home visitation of all first born newborns in the state, a system that continues to show strong outcomes.

Having begun her career working with chronic juvenile felons in Oregon, Robin is the author with Meredith Wiley of “Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence” which illuminates the roots of aggressive and violent behavior as stemming from the largely unintentional early neglect or maltreatment of the extraordinarily vulnerable human brain in earliest development. Steeped in the latest neurobiological research along with stories of real people, and written on the eve of the tide of school shootings in the late 90s,Ghosts was the first book to connect the effects on the brain of early childhood trauma to rising rates of aggression, violence and  incarceration.  Robin has taken her understanding of earliest brain development and of the need for the protection and modulation of the immature nervous system to communities across the nation and across the world.

In 2012, Robin, with the assistance of Meredith Wiley wrote “Scared Sick: the Role of Early Trauma in Adult Disease” which explores the roots of an expanding list of diseases that are linked to chronic early emotional trauma. She is a popular lecturer and serves as a consultant to several states on preventive social policies designed to enable families to build healthy children from the beginning of life.

All of Robin’s work and writing has been oriented toward developing social policies that prevent foreseeable pathologies and the growing need for remedial services for children by providing front- ended support for parents across all classes, incomes and educational levels. Emerging science in neurobiology and genetics provides a clear picture of how seriously our present efforts to remediate aggression, violence and all forms of illness—mental, physical and behavioral—are simply “too little, too late”.

Toward the goal of reducing stress and trauma in families, Robin is working with the mayors of Memphis and Shelby County and a large team of community leaders and agency administrators on a preventive mental health model called “UPP!” a potential model for national replication. The launch of the program occurred in early January, 2015 following the release of a community- wide assessment of trauma that revealed alarming rates of adverse childhood experiences across all layers of society in Memphis. The goal of the model is to complement the current model of pediatric care for physical health with a parallel system for helping parents protect emotional and behavioral health.

Robin is married to Colin for thirty- four years and is the mother of four children, one adopted, three biological; she is the grandmother of four. This she considers her most challenging and most rewarding role.

Copyright 2015 The Parenting Institute