Yolo Crisis Nursery: A History From One Who Was There

The Yolo Crisis Nursery began serving children ages birth to five years old and their families in 2001. Since then, the Nursery has continuously provided early intervention services in a safe environment to nurture healthy and resilient children, strengthen parents and preserve families.

From 2001 until early 2014, the nursery operated under a parent nonprofit agency. Yolo Crisis Nursery executive director Heather Sleuter recalls receiving the news that the nursery would close in 30 days and our parent agency would leave Yolo County. “We had just bundled up the last of 12 children to leave for the day with parents and guardians. Two children would spend the night with our staff as their parents got immediate help. I thought, what will happen to these children — and all the children who need the nursery’s care — if we close?”

The departure of our host agency from Yolo County in 2014 created a crisis. The nursery was facing closure. A group of volunteers who had been formed years earlier for fundraising assistance to the Nursery — The Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery — immediately began to search for a licensed host agency to take over the Yolo Crisis Nursery operations. For a variety of reasons, one was not found.

With the 30 days’ notice of closure, the majority of grants that had funded the nursery were terminated. There was no more agency, no more money and no more time. The clock was ticking. And then, the angels arrived and brought with them the miracles that are now legendary.

Heidy Kellison, president of the Friends, boldly negotiated a continuation of the Yolo Crisis Nursery operations with private funding while a nonprofit corporation was formed, licensed and became a public 501(c)(3) charity. The Yolo Crisis Nursery now had 90 days to remain open while securing funding for the interim operation of the nursery and a full fiscal year of funding for operations totaling almost $400,000. Heidy returned to Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery with a three-month clock, determination and enduring hope.  She is my hero.

Yolo Crisis Nursery Inc., was formed with a board of directors consisting of Becky Heard, as chair, Kellison, Liz Malinoff, Trish Bosco and myself. On behalf of the new corporation, I submitted an application for 501 (c) (3) status, and Heather Sleuter, completed all of the licensing applications. Yolo County Children’s Alliance acted as the interim public charity on behalf of the new corporation.

With the 90 days quickly racing by, the newly formed board immediately hired Cam Stoufer to help replace the terminated grants with new funding streams. Cam’s efforts yielded immediate dividends and continued throughout her six years of service. While Cam applied for grant funding, the newly formed Board and the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery were feverishly fundraising to save the nursery.

The Yolo Crisis Nursery is open today because of the generosity of Yolo County citizens, businesses and organizations, as well as our families and friends nationwide. All are connected by our shared belief that every child deserves to grow up in a safe, loving, and stable home. The redemption story of these times is for a different forum than this article, but the angles ranged from bakes sales to large monetary donations.

In those 90 days, contributions from family and friends, and the Yolo community of individuals, clubs, churches, and others, as well as grants, totaled $364,000! At the risk of forgetting someone, I will not attempt to enumerate the many contributors of time, talent and treasure. But, for the sake of deservedness, I must give credit to Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza for his advocacy during this perilous time.  His commitment and passion for the mission and community need of the Yolo Crisis Nursery became the cornerstone of our successful fundraising efforts.

In 2015, the newly licensed, nonprofit corporation Yolo Crisis Nursery Inc. began standalone activity. Sleuter was named executive director and has continued in that capacity to this day. In our first full year as an independent nonprofit, we served 129 children. Last year, we served 692 children. We serve at-risk children ages birth to 5 years old and their families as an upstream investment in the future of our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to the nursery. The Yolo Crisis Nursery is an essential service and has remained open during the stay-at-home orders. “Over six months into the pandemic, we have more families than ever in crisis. We are seeing increases in clients experiencing domestic violence, homelessness, and postpartum depression,” Sleuter said. “In addition, we are helping essential workers with young children and distributing record numbers of care packages in our community. The need has never been greater.”

As it has since 2001, the Nursery has remained open, serving a population under great stress. These families are hit hardest by the pandemic and are struggling with homelessness, unemployment, isolation, and uncertainty. I invite you to support the Nursery and the children they serve with your time, talents, or a donation. To learn more please visit www.yolocrisisnursery.org. We are community.

This article was written by Vic Bucher and originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday, October 25, 2020.

Safety, compassion, community, commitment, respect, and hope are the values that Yolo Crisis Nursery embraces 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Every child we serve receives 100% of our dedication to maintaining those values, along with our further commitment to embrace their parents in our wrap-around services to help preserve their family so that they can grow up in a safe, loving, and stable home.

When parents and caregivers experience high levels of stress without resources, support or relief to help manage their crises, child abuse, and neglect increases. In this unprecedented period of uncertainty due to COVID-19, there are more families than ever experiencing extreme stress.

When parents aren’t able to work, poverty and homelessness will increase, leading to prolonged toxic stress on families that will result in increased domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse, psychiatric issues, and other serious situations. In these uncertain times, the Yolo Crisis Nursery will focus on the safety of our community’s most vulnerable children as well as the safety of our staff.

We will keep providing services to help children whose safety is at the highest risk within the guidelines of national and local health officials. We are monitoring the CDC guidelines and are in contact with state, local and county health officials regularly to ensure our staff, children, and their families are kept as safe as possible.

Yolo County’s recent shelter-at-home mandate will help reduce the risk of further spread of the virus and save lives. We understand that COVID-19 is causing concern and upheaval for us as individuals and for our community. We are feeling this and our community’s children feel it too. Children may be agitated or confused as they are undoubtedly unsettled by the drastic changes to their normal routines and unavoidable ominous news that surrounds us all.

Now more than ever, it is important that we recognize and guide those in our community who might need extra assistance to the help they need. Yolo County is filled with generous and compassionate people and together we all do make a difference. Together we can weather this crisis with grace, dignity, and minimize the suffering for our community.

During this time, the Yolo Crisis Nursery is developing online resources, and information to help families stay strong and resilient. If you have not already liked the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery page on Facebook, please join our community for the latest updates.

We are working to bring in child and family specialists as well as other experts. We plan to cover key topics like how to discuss the virus with children, parental self-care, as well as ideas to keep children engaged and learning during this challenging time. Please like us on Facebook and stay tuned!

We invite you to join us, please visit www.yolocrisisnursery.org to learn more about the nursery, or to make a donation. Thank you Yolo County, we are stronger together.

— This was written by Heather Sleuter is the executive director of the Yolo Crisis Nursery and first appeared in Davis Enterprise on March 22, 2020.