December 26, 2021

Yolo Crisis Nursery: Grateful and Hopeful as We Enter 2022

As the end of the year draws near, many of us are eager to leave it behind and look forward to planning for a new year that is healthy, stable, and safe for everyone. That is easier said than done for far too many people in Yolo County, and the Yolo Crisis Nursery is here to change that by providing early intervention services in a safe environment to nurture healthy and resilient children, strengthen parents and preserve families.

I have had the honor and privilege of serving on the Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors for five years, the last two as its president. I could not be prouder of what our organization has accomplished during my time on the Board, most especially since the inception of the pandemic. The pandemic brought into sharp relief the essential role of the Crisis Nursery as a first responder in a collective time of crisis.

In the last year, the Nursery provided emergency respite care and triaged resources for 1,018 children, served 67% more families than the year before, and distributed a record 3,874 care packages. The Nursery’s respite care program for children from birth to age 5 is unique as the only program in the County with a certified staff providing trauma-informed care for children under the age of five. We also have the only program in Yolo County providing overnight safe stays for children and wraparound services for both children and their families.

Thank you to our Executive Director, Heather Sleuter, and the Nursery’s resolute, talented staff for working tirelessly on the front lines to protect our community’s most vulnerable children and their families. Thanks also to our compassionate and committed Board of Directors who unreservedly ensure the Nursery has everything it needs to keep children safe and families whole.

It is a sad truth that the urgent needs of our client children and their families have never been greater. Even prior to the pandemic, our community was already facing several stark realities:

* Children ages birth to five comprised over 47% of all substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect in our county. These first five years are the most critical in a child’s development.

* In each of the past six years, our county’s rate of substantiated cases of child maltreatment of children ages birth to five has exceeded State percentages. These cases of abuse and neglect have devasting immediate consequences that will likely exacerbate in the future.

* Yolo County has the highest poverty rate in California. 20.9% of our county’s families live in poverty and 15.3% of our children live in poverty.

The Nursery’s programs and services have outgrown our small, outdated rental house we have called home for the past 20 years. The Board of Directors and Nursery staff are always planning ahead and marshaling and growing our resources to meet families’ urgent, ever-increasing needs and to build on their strengths to create long-term safety and stability for their children. In the coming year, we will be sharing more about our efforts to build a new and larger home for more families and children in crisis in Yolo County.

Our programs and services are funded in large part by donations. Donating to the Nursery is a powerful way to invest in our community’s future and protect the most vulnerable children and their families. Thank you to all who generously donated to our 20 for 20 campaign for Giving Tuesday. I am thrilled to share that we exceeded our fundraising goal and will be able to help even more children and families because of your generosity. For those who have not donated this year, I invite you to include the Yolo Crisis Nursery as a part of your year-end giving. Please visit for more information and to donate.

It is my honor to pass the leadership of the Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors to President-elect Jennifer Thayer. I am confident in Jennifer’s leadership ability and look forward to continuing to collaborate with her and the Board on Nursery projects in my last year on the Board. I am thrilled to announce that Renee Nolte Newton of Davis and attorney Thomas W. Barth of Winters will be joining the Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors in January. I would also like to recognize our board members who completed their terms this year for their commitment, professionalism, and compassion. Kelly Fung-Chen, Penny Howard, and Eric Miller, thank you for your service and dedication to protecting children and preserving families.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2022 and look forward to seeing you at the 10th Annual Yolo Crisis Nursery Crab Feed on February 19, 2022, at the Davis Veterans Memorial Center! Stay tuned for more details in January.

— This article was written by JoEllen Welsch is the president of Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors and originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on December 26, 2021.