June 26, 2022

Teacher retiring after 30 years of service

Yolo Crisis Nursery was founded after a 15-year-old foster child named Artie asked his caseworker a simple, piercing question: “Why didn’t anyone help my mom when I was younger? If they had, maybe we could be together now.” The Yolo Crisis Nursery opened its doors in 2001 and has since helped more than 8,000 children and their families.

Early intervention is at the heart of what we do at the Nursery. My staff delivers the best in trauma-informed care to achieve our vision that all children grow up in a safe, loving, and stable home. It is my privilege to honor Jennifer Hungerford, Yolo Crisis Nursery Preschool Teacher, who is retiring this month after dedicating more than 30 years of her career to helping Yolo County children. Jennifer started working at the Nursery in 2014 after a 25-year career as a preventive care counselor for teens.

“The Nursery is a place where families can receive services and crisis support not available elsewhere. This support helps keep families together and helps to break the cycle of abuse and neglect,” says Jennifer Hungerford. The Yolo Crisis Nursery’s early intervention approach has been tremendously successful with 98% of our respite care client families not entering child protective services.

The Yolo Crisis Nursery offers voluntary, free, nurturing crisis and respite childcare from birth through 5 years old, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Equally important are our wraparound services that help parents resolve the problems that brought them to our door. The nursery strives to preserve families — families that stay whole become stronger.

Jennifer first joined the nursery as a volunteer and then was hired as a preschool teacher seven years ago. Jennifer’s dedication to our clients is extraordinary, and the positive impact her work has had on our community is significant.

“It was such a joy to see children who had experienced so much trauma respond positively to a loving, nurturing atmosphere,” said Jennifer. “I was able to embrace the opportunity on a day to day basis to help the children build self-confidence, develop empathy and self-control, build curiosity, and perseverance. To have been part of such a caring, compassionate, and dedicated team has been incredible.”

Hungerford continues, “I have seen how simply responding and staying connected to a child during their most difficult moments is when they feel the most loved. There is nothing better than to have a child run to give you a big good-bye hug at the end of the day and say ‘I love you!’. It has been a privilege to work not only with the children but also in congruence with the families as a whole unit. It has been so fulfilling to contribute to the healing of a child and family after a crisis and watch them grow and turn their lives around.”

As Jennifer reflected back on her years at the nursery, she said, “It has been a happy and humbling career serving children and their families at the Yolo Crisis Nursery. I have so many precious memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I will never forget a child asking me for a hug in their own special way — ‘Jefner, put me on your arms please.’ ”

Jennifer plans to spend more time with her own children and grandchildren and travel with her husband in her retirement. The Board of Directors, Friends of Yolo Crisis Nursery, and the entire nursery staff would like to express our deep admiration and utmost appreciation for Jennifer’s service to Yolo County youth.

Every child and family we serve is different, but each one is in crisis and all are in need of aid, having little or no support systems of their own. With a little help at just the right moment, families can avert crises. Rather than free-falling, they instead turn towards a more promising future.

If you would like to help a Yolo County family at just the right moment, please consider supporting the Nursery by volunteering, joining the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, helping with a fundraising event, or by making a financial donation www.yolocrisisnursery.org.The Yolo Crisis Nursery could not survive without the generosity of our community, and we are grateful for your support. Thank you on behalf of the children and families we serve.

— This article originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on June 26, 2022, and is written by Heather Sleuter, executive director, Yolo Crisis Nursery.