By Iliana Magana
DAVIS — The Yolo Crisis Nursery is a safe haven for numerous parents in need of nurturing child care and assistance. Heather Sleuter, the Executive Director of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, spoke about what it’s like working there and helping members of the community.
When asked, “What has proven to be the most challenging part?” of working at The Nursery, Sleuter said, “Since we are a crisis nursery, we never know what kind of crisis will present itself when the phone rings or there is a knock on our door. The cases we see can be dramatic and heartbreaking, but the reward of seeing families emerge together and be more resilient is the most rewarding part of our work at the Nursery. “
Additionally, Sleuter stated, “We are open and helping children and families 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Last year we served almost 700 children and provided over 2,600 safe stays for at-risk children and distributed over 2,700 care packages of childcare essentials like diapers, wipes, formula, and clothing.”
She was also asked if there is a specific time limit for parents to receive aid, to which she responded, “As a crisis nursery, we offer 30 days of care over a 60-day period.”
Sleuter shared that a caseworker is assigned to each child, parent or family. She said, “The caseworker will work with family members and create a step-by-step plan to minimize the stress for the children, and not only resolve the immediate crisis, but work to put safeguards in place that work to minimize the root cause of the crisis, so it does not happen again.”
She added, “The caseworkers are in regular contact with the families and are available to answer questions that arise and to refer them to additional community resources. The Yolo Crisis Nursery wraps our client families with love and support.”
Furthermore, she explained how their “amazing trauma-informed caregivers compassionately care for children as their parents, families or guardians work to resolve the crises that brought them to our door. The child receives specialty care in a home-like environment and our talented staff, and therapists (when needed) provide loving care and learning opportunities through our licensed preschool and infant care programs.”
Sleuter was then asked, “What has been the most impactful event from working with The Yolo Crisis Nursery?” She responded, “I’ve been the Chief Executive Officer at the Nursery for 14 years. The most impactful part of my role is seeing first-hand the growth and stability that families are capable of achieving in a short time. When a family leaves the Nursery, we personally check in with them at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. During this time, we see families heal and make life changes that are the foundation for a stable and thriving family such as permanent housing, stable employment, and a healthy, safe environment for their child. It doesn’t get better than that.”
The Nursery has changed the lives of many, and when asked what she would say to someone experiencing domestic violence at home, or is in crisis and needs assistance providing for their children.
She said, “Even under the best of circumstances, we understand parenting is hard. It takes an incredible act of love for your child to ask for help. The Yolo Crisis Nursery is a safe and hopeful place. We specialize in ensuring client’s safety and privacy, while also connecting parents and children with additional services. We can literally help them change their lives. 99 percent of the respite care families we serve do NOT enter child protective services.”
Moreover, Sleuter recalled how the Nursery helped change the life of a domestic violence survivor. She said, “The anonymous survivor was escaping domestic violence and came to the Nursery in early 2020. In her words, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without the Crisis Nursery. My client navigator helped me map out a plan for my life. I returned to school to complete my Certified Nurse Assistant Program while the Nursery cared for my two boys. My boys thrived at the Nursery, staff helped them potty train and reach age-appropriate developmental milestones. I finished my nursing program, got a job and I am continuing my education to become an LVN. I am living proof of the enormous impact the Nursery has on a family in crisis.’”
Additionally, Sleuter said that although every family is working to solve a different crisis, they “help families resolve issues such as domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment, or drug addiction. As they reach milestones in the program the resounding phrase we hear is ‘I could not have done this without you.’”
Sleuter concluded by saying that anyone and everyone can contribute to the Yolo Crisis Nursery, and lend a helping hand to those in need of assistance. She said, “there are several ways to help the Yolo Crisis Nursery. We can always use clothes, wipes, diapers, and formula. We also accept gently used children’s items. [The public] could help raise awareness and funds to support the Yolo Crisis Nursery by joining the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, and attending our annual Barn Dance in October and Crab Feed in March. Most importantly a financial donation to the Nursery enables us to continue to serve Yolo County’s most vulnerable children.”
Iliana Magana is a third-year transfer student at UC Davis, double majoring in Communications and Political Science. She is from Huntington Park, California