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Guest Tells Attendees How She Used Tragedy to Survive, Teach

From the Albany Democrat Herald by Alex Paul March 14, 2014 7:15 am •

Author Pamela Koefoed said growing up with an alcohol-addicted mother was like “trying to survive in a river of crocodiles.”

Had Koefoed and her two siblings been fortunate enough to have had CASA mentors, their childhoods would have been much brighter and far less traumatic, she told guests at the seventh annual Court Appointed Special Advocates fundraising luncheon, Thursday held at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

Koefoed is now the CASA director in Lake County and author of the recently published book, “Joy Ride: Life, Death and Forgiveness.”

It details the harrowing experiences of her childhood — including being abandoned by her mother for days at age 9. She and her 11-year-old sister were left in charge of her six week old brother.

Koefoed said that every 10 seconds, someone files a child abuse report in the United States.

“Child abuse crosses all lines, all socio-economic classes, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, male and female,” she said.

She said that in Oregon last year, there were 10,000 cases of children being physically or sexually abused, threatened of harm, neglected or abandoned.

“They have had their innocence stolen from them,” Koefoed said. “Child abuse is epidemic in every state and it is in every county in Oregon.”

She said that during the one-hour luncheon, 360 cases of child abuse will have been reported somewhere in the U.S.

Koefoed said both sets of her grandparents were addicted to alcohol, and she and her siblings were raised in local bars in Sacramento, Calif.

“We didn’t suffer from physical abuse as such, but we were severely neglected, went without food, abandoned, suffered great traumas and placed in danger numerous times,” Koefoed said.

By the time she was 10 years old, she had lived in numerous apartments and had gone to seven elementary schools.

The children often went without food and learned to steal fruit from neighbor’s trees to survive while their mother was often absent.

After a series of four house fires, Koefoed’s mother was eventually sent to prison for arson, and while there, learned she was pregnant.

“After the fires, our mother basically quit taking care of us,” Koefoed said. “She quit combing our hair. We didn’t get baths. Our clothes were dirty. We tried to take care of our little brother, but we ran out of diapers and we used towels.”

Koefoed said as tragic as those events were, “they don’t define who I am. They are part of my arsenal to help others recover.”

Lene’ Garrett, executive director of CASA of Linn County, said 240 children had a CASA mentor last year, a record number.

Yet there are still 120 children on a waiting list.

She said CASA moved into a permanent office space along with a portion of the Linn County Health Department, and CASA volunteers devoted more than 6,700 hours.

“Our goal today is to raise $15,000 because there is an anonymous donor who will match that,” Garrett said.

Garrett said from 40 to 50 percent of children who have lived in foster homes won’t graduate from high school and only 3 percent will go on to college.

One year after leaving foster care at age 18, 60 percent of the children will be homeless, have been in jail or died.

“There was an article in the newspaper recently that said the number one felony in Linn County last year was for methamphetamines and the number one misdemeanor was for DUII,” Garrett said. “That didn’t surprise me at all. We see the correlation between those crimes and the effect on children every day.”

Garrett said the number of children served by CASA has nearly doubled from 121 in 2010 to 240 this year.

“We’ve seen so much growth, but to think that CASA has been in Linn County for 26 years, makes me think we were limping along for many years,” Garrett said.

The luncheon’s presenting sponsor was Re/Max Integrity brokers.

To learn more about CASA and upcoming fundraising events, including a handmade quilt raffle, visit

Linn County reporter Alex Paul can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or by emailing

Addendum by Pamela Koefoed. I appreciate the Albany Democrat’s coverage of the CASA luncheon and their accurate reporting of my talk. Here’s the rest of the story. When I shared about child abuse and my childhood experiences, I didn’t explain that my dad and step mother gained custody of my sister and me. I also didn’t share about my other “little” brother. He wasn’t subjected to the crisis in which my sister, brother S. and I were subjected because he lived with our dad.

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