September 28, 2021

Celebrating 20 years and 7,500-plus children served

A 15-year-old foster child named Artie asked a seemingly simple question of his caseworker: “Why didn’t anyone help my mom when I was little? If someone had, maybe I could still be with her.” Artie entered the foster care system in Yolo County when he was just 4 years old. Artie’s question resounded loudly on hearts and souls in our community, and the Yolo Crisis Nursery opened its doors in 2001.

Since opening in 2001, the Yolo Crisis Nursery has helped over 7,500 children and their families with early intervention programs to help break the cycle of abuse and poverty. The Yolo Crisis Nursery offers respite care for children and families experiencing a challenging time and who need support. Equally important, the Nursery provides wrap around services to help families resolve their crises and emerge stronger together.

The Nursery is a critical resource to Yolo County. It is a place of hope for families in crisis. I am proud to have been a part of the Nursery since the beginning, first as a member and president of the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, then as a member and president of the Board of Directors, and now as the Nursery’s director of development and community relations.

The growth I have witnessed over the past 20 years is truly remarkable. With the desire to serve children, the Nursery started in a small rental house where we continue to operate today. We offered respite and overnight care for children for up to 30 days while providing guidance and support to their parent(s) to address the causes of the crises that brought them to our door.

During the last 14 years, I have watched our Executive Director, Heather Sleuter, lead the Nursery with tremendous passion and vision. I have witnessed the Nursery rise from a small organization to a critical asset in our community. The Nursery is not a Band-Aid for our client children and families; we are a long-term solution that changes the trajectories of lives. Thousands of parents have secured employment, permanent housing, and the skills to help their children grow and thrive.

As a member of the group who formally established the Nursery as an independent nonprofit in 2014, I have had the pleasure of watching the Board of Directors develop and flourish under the leadership of past presidents J.D. Denton and Jane Eadie, and current President JoEllen Welsch. Today the Board of Directors is a diverse group of talented community members who are passionate and devoted to the Nursery.

Over the last 20 years, the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery volunteer group has grown from a few members with modest goals to a sophisticated group of individuals who provide two extremely successful annual fundraising events that generate 10% of our annual revenue.

Under Heather Sleuter’s leadership, the Nursery’s services and programs have also grown in number and complexity. We have added seven new programs to ensure that families will transition from our services to being fully equipped and capable to properly care for their family. We are changing lives and helping families carve a new path for a better tomorrow. The resiliency of the children and families we serve continues to be humbling and awe inspiring.

In the coming year, our specialty services will continue to expand. Our Executive Director and trauma-informed trained staff will soon begin providing specialized adverse-childhood-experience assessments and appropriate follow-up for every child we encounter.

ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. When a child is exposed to intense and consistent stress, their brain development is altered, impacting their decision-making, learning, response to stress, and attention span. This developmental disruption is linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adulthood. Continuing research has shed light on the increasing rate and lasting impact of ACEs. As one of only four crisis nurseries in California, the Yolo Crisis Nursery is essential in identifying, mitigating, and preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences.

The Nursery’s approach has proven highly successful over the last 20 years. In fact, 99% of our respite care families served do not enter the child welfare system. Our focus on ACEs in the coming years will provide yet another critical layer of support to ensure the children we serve can grow up to be healthy productive adults.

The Nursery would not be here today without the tremendous support of our community. Thank you to all who have donated and volunteered over the last 20 years. I invite you to join us in helping the most vulnerable children by donating your time and talents to the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, or by making a monetary gift online at or check mailed to 1107 Kennedy Place, Suite 5, Davis, CA 95616. On behalf of all of us at the Yolo Crisis Nursery and the children and families we serve — Thank you!

— Becky Heard is the director of development and community relations for Yolo Crisis Nursery