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.

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all adapting to what our new “normal” life looks like. I am seeing this in my own life and in the experiences of my patients. For new parents, this is amplified in ways that many of us cannot fathom.

Just imagine bringing your first child into the world as a single mother. To keep your newborn baby safe, you are not able to share your bundle of joy with family and friends for fear of exposure to COVID. Beyond the emotional isolation, fulfilling basic needs, like going to the grocery store, is a challenge for fear of exposing both yourself and your infant to the virus.

Amber, a young mother of two, found herself isolated, alone and without any support. Amber and Josh welcomed their second child this summer and in August, Josh was deployed with the National Guard. This was not the first time Josh had been deployed, but it was the most challenging for Amber. The added stress of COVID-19 had her feeling isolated and more alone than ever. Separated from Josh, her family and friends, Amber was stripped of her usual support system and was unable to overcome the biological and emotional symptoms of postpartum depression.

Thankfully, Amber found the Yolo Crisis Nursery. Amber came to us exhausted, with despair visible on her face, not having slept in over a week. With her family thousands of miles away and friends unable to help due to the pandemic, Amber and her two children were all alone. The nursery welcomed Amber, her newborn daughter, and 4-year-old son with wraparound arms.

Our trauma-trained staff lovingly cared for the children while one of our caseworkers met with Amber to get her help and establish a treatment plan for her postpartum depression. Through our initial screening process, Amber’s 4-year-old son was identified as being on the autism spectrum. After his diagnosis, one of our caseworkers connected Amber to necessary services including Alta California Regional Center and an Individualized Education Plan. Meanwhile, the nursery cared for both children in our daycare and preschool while Amber received the necessary medical and counseling services to help her battle postpartum depression.

The Yolo Crisis Nursery is an essential resource for our community and a place of hope for families in crisis. I am proud to serve on the Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors. As one of only four crisis nurseries in California, the Yolo Crisis Nursery is an essential early intervention child-abuse-prevention program. We serve families with children ages birth to 5 years and offer trauma-informed childcare, including crisis and respite care. Equally important are our wraparound services to assist families to resolve the crises that brought them to our door. Our services are voluntary and provided free of charge to our client families.

Unfortunately, history informs us that as stress increases — like during a pandemic — all too often, neglect and abuse also increase. Now more than ever, it is important that we recognize and guide those in our community, like Amber, who may need extra assistance to get the help they need.

Amber is not alone. Last year, 13% of new mothers reported experiencing postpartum depression in California. At the nursery and in my work as a physician, we have seen an increase in postpartum depression cases since COVID-19 caused the shelter-in-place order in March. This trend will likely continue because so many families are experiencing extreme stress, a risk factor for postpartum depression. Sadly, the populations most susceptible to postpartum depression are some of the hardest hit by the pandemic — racial and ethnic minorities, Medicaid-eligible low-income families, and those with lower levels of educational attainment. Those populations all report more cases of postpartum depression symptoms compared to non-Hispanic white women.

If you believe that all children deserve to grow up in a safe, loving, and stable home and would like to help young families like Amber’s, I invite you to join us at the Yolo Crisis Nursery. We are always looking for people who are willing to lend their time and talent to join us.  To learn more or to make a gift, please visit our website at www.yolocrisisnursery.org. We would love the opportunity to get to know you.

— By Joan Smith-Maclean, Yolo Crisis Nursery Board Member. This article originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday, September 27, 2020