After listening to heart-rending stories from community members and first responders about the importance of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, Supervisor Jim Provenza pushed together what would become a unanimous vote to supply between $60,000 to $100,000 in emergency funding to help the program stay open.
The item was agendized for separate items, including support for Senator Wolk’s proposed pilot project, the “Crisis Nursery Project to Reduce Child Abuse,” creation of a Crisis Nursery Ad Hoc Subcommittee comprised of Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor, and authorizing staff “to work with Friends of the Crisis Nursery to develop a letter of support for the Crisis Nursery Project to Reduce Child Abuse, and upon approval of the Crisis Nursery Ad Hoc Committee, authorize the Chair of the Board of Supervisors to sign the completed letter.”
On March 27, 2014 EMQ FamiliesFirst formally announced that it would be closing the Yolo Crisis Nursery effective June 30, 2014. The announcement drew outrage, as many believed the closure was in retaliation for the shutdown of EMQ’s center on Fifth Street that last year drew an investigation by state regulators for problems with assaults involving the teens housed at the facility, and the facility’s practice of allowing the teens to leave the site unsupervised.
The Crisis Nursery has been in operation for 13 years “and works toward the goal of preventing child abuse by offering a safe and healthy place parents can voluntarily place their young children (ages 0-5) for child care during difficult times.”
Staff reports, “According to EMQ FamiliesFirst the Crisis Nursery has been struggling financially for several years, and EMQ has been heavily subsidizing the program to keep it running. In March 2014 the EMQ Board of Directors publicly announced its decision to stop subsidizing the program and close it at the end of the fiscal year, and since that time members of the Yolo community have expressed significant concern over the loss of this valuable program.”
Staff for the county has pursued two tracks in addressing the issue. The first “aims to identify opportunities to keep the Crisis Nursery open as it currently exists, but under the management of a different organization. The second track will be triggered if efforts to keep the Nursery open are not successful, and involves identifying opportunities to duplicate some of the core services offered by the Crisis Nursery, possibly spreading them across several other local community based organizations (CBOs) to ensure that these core services remain in the community in some capacity.”
The Yolo Crisis Nursery is one of only four existing crisis nurseries in the State of California. It offers a cost-effective means to provide critical services to support families during difficult times in hopes of preventing abuse and neglect as well as more costly out-of-home placements.
The community has stepped up to fill some of that funding gap.
As the Vanguard reported earlier this week, there is a major fundraising campaign keep the doors of the nursery open beyond its scheduled June 30 closure, being sponsored by Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery.
“If we can raise $100,000 by June 15, odds are good that we can save this irreplaceable service,” said Heidy Kellison, a leader of the all-volunteer Friends group. “That’s dependent on finding a new host agency to take over the management, but we’re in talks with several potential candidates and are optimistic one can be secured.”
“This community is not going to let this critical service disappear,” she said. “The risk of child abuse and neglect increase during times of family stress. We have a 97% success rate keeping children out of the child welfare system by providing emergency respite care and giving parents resources and support to resolve their crises. They strengthen their parenting skills and ultimately provide a safe and stable home for their children.“
Supervisor Provenza argued that these services ultimately save money by providing emergency care for children whose families may be in crisis, and also providing short-term care for families without other support services available to them.
“My feeling is that we have to do everything possible to keep the crisis nursery open,” he said.
Jim Provenza discussed what is called a Pomona fund, which he said came out of a smoking settlement but is now available for emergencies and to bridge funding for organizations that have their funding threatened. As part of next year’s budget, the board could take action to use some of those funds for this purpose.
The Board could provide direction about the intent to use that funding and county staff would have to bring the item back for allocation.
Supervisor Provenza thanked the community “because you all know the value of this service. I’m convinced that this can be a sustainable program.” He said, “Everybody is waiting to see what everybody else does, if all of this comes together there is enough to sustain it initially for the year.”
He said that the support he sees in the community convinces him that this is the right thing to do. He recalled Apollo 13 where they argued, “failure is not an option.” “I think this program is so vital that we have to do everything we can to keep it going,” he said. “Not only will we keep it going, but we will build a more successful program and hopefully get the state to study it and get the state to expand that model to other counties.”
He said that places that don’t have a crisis nursery, “have infants die, have infants damaged for life, they have families damaged and they have tremendous costs in later social services for the county.”
But Supervisor Provenza had some work to do to get to three votes and ultimately four votes, with Supervisor Matt Rexroad having recused himself due to being a foster parent who utilizes the services.
Supervisor Don Saylor was not convinced about using county money. He argued about sustainability of the funding, however, citing “a lot of that $400,000 has to come from places that are yet undesignated.”
“Yes I think there’s hope, yes, I think there’s drive and commitment,” Supervisor Saylor argued. “This year we’ll probably make it. The question will be how do we work from there forward.”
“I’m not yet ready to commit county funding from the Pomona fund,” he stated. “There are other needs, I’m not diminishing anything we heard here, but there are other ways to address the needs of the children that are also threatened by the funding issues.”
He said he was willing to support the rest of the staff recommendations but felt it “premature” to go beyond that at this point.
“Right now we have to do the duel track, because we don’t know what’s going to happen and right now we’re focused on keeping it open for the next year,” Supervisor Provenza interjected. “Even if despite our best efforts that didn’t work, we still delivered these valuable services for another year.”
Supervisor Saylor requested that the motions be separated. Support of the staff recommendations were quickly passed unanimously.
Supervisor Provenza then moved to direct staff to bring back language at the next meeting to approve Pomona funding in the crisis nursery in the 2014-15 budget for up to $100,000. Duane Chamberlain seconded that motion.
Supervisor Oscar Villegas suggested that the conversation be framed around the further refining of the policy framework for how to distribute the Pomona funding.
“Rather than singling this one out, because I agree with it,” Supervisor Villagas stated, “There needs to be a larger conversation. I was hoping we would have had that, but this crisis has presented itself.”
Supervisor Provenza modified the motion, adding a separate discussion about how to distribute these funds in the future.
“My intent at the next meeting was to allocate some amount of Pomona funds, doesn’t have to be $100,000 towards the Crisis Nursery,” he stated. He modified his motion to $60,000 to $100,000.
Those two changes were enough to secure the votes of Supervisor Villegas and Supervisor Saylor, who changed his mind and voted to support the motion without comment. The discussion now comes back at the May 27 meeting for final allocation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting