AB 578, authored by State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) passed the Senate Committee on Human Services on Tuesday with a bi-partisan, 4-0 vote. The bill would establish a two-year pilot project in the County of Sacramento and the County of Yolo for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of crisis nurseries in lowering the incidence of child abuse in those counties.
“I authored this bill in response to the threatened closure of the Yolo Crisis Nursery,” said Senator Wolk. Last year in California, there were 81,633 substantiated cases of child abuse with 38,087 of those cases involving children ages birth to 5. Crisis nurseries serve an important role in providing respite to parents and reducing cases of child abuse.”
In 2004, the Legislature established a separate licensing category, crisis nurseries, to provide temporary shelter for children at risk of abuse. The mission of a crisis nursery is to provide a free, temporary, safe, voluntary placement for children while a parent or guardian is undergoing a temporary financial, health or other challenge. Today, only a handful operate in California, including two in Sacramento County and one in Yolo County.
“We know, based on smaller studies, that crisis nurseries keep children out of foster care – this keeps families together and reduces the amount of money we spend on child welfare services,” continued Senator Wolk. “My bill will help quantify the value of crisis nurseries.”
The legislation was co-authored by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson.
“Crisis nurseries play an integral role in preventing neglect and abuse among children, while providing families with much needed assistance and resources during unforeseen circumstances,” Assemblymember Dickinson said. “A new study is critical in attesting to the effectiveness of crisis nurseries in preventing child abuse.”
The bill would authorize a 2-year pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of the Sacramento and Yolo crisis nurseries in reducing the number of children entering the Child Welfare System or Child Protective Services.
Additional research on crisis nurseries will provide the necessary information to guide child abuse policy and promote nursery development in California communities.
The research available indicates that crisis nurseries prevent neglect and abuse by providing families assistance, resources and support during unforeseen circumstances. Verification of effectiveness would enhance child abuse prevention public policy and validate the potential for nursery development in other California communities.
Crisis nurseries were created to provide temporary emergency care for young children, from birth to five years old, who need a safe place to live for up to thirty days. They prevent parents from having to relinquish custody of their children to the child welfare system while addressing issues such as postpartum depression, homelessness, domestic violence, medical or mental health issues, substance abuse treatment or searching for employment.
A previous 2-year study on crisis nurseries conducted by The ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help) and National Respite Network and Resource Center (NRNRC) examined the relationships between crisis relief care to incidents of reported child abuse.
The evaluation also explored the differences in outcomes between crisis nurseries used as a secondary prevention service and as a tertiary prevention service. It showed significant decreases in child abuse and neglect cases when parents/guardians had access to crisis nurseries compared with parents who did not have access.
The study was conducted from June 14, 2004 – July 31, 2006 and included Sacramento Crisis Nurseries North and South, and the Yolo Crisis Nursery. Additional research is needed, which this bill would provide.
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.”
The County Board of Supervisors would approve emergency funding to keep the facility going until permanent solutions could be found.
The county staff report noted in the spring, “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 being instead of more costly out-of-home placements.
The Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery announced last month that they had amassed $200,000 in emergency grant funding to keep the nursery open beyond its threatened June 30 closure, said Heidy Kellison, president of the all-volunteer group, on Tuesday.
“We still need to meet our commitment to $100,000 in individual contributions, but the grant funding is a huge step in saving the nursery,” she said. “Our deepest gratitude goes out to Woodland Healthcare and the Kelly Foundation, which each are giving $50,000, and to the Yolo Board of Supervisors, who have committed to $80,000. Two other family foundations are anonymously adding $10,000 apiece. It’s phenomenal.”
Individual contributions are now being doubled by a challenge grant issued by Mohini Jain, a retired schoolteacher. Jain will match dollar for dollar up to $12,500 before the June 15 deadline.
“When that is matched, we will have exceeded our $100,000 goal for individual donations,” Kellison said. “
—David M. Greenwald reporting