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Sugar House Journal

Crisis Nurseries Help Parents, Kids

Sep 29, 2016 16h30 ● By Travis Barton

The Crisis Nursery program offers free short-term childcare for families in crisis situations. (Natalie Simpson/The Family Support Center)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

The Family Support Center has a mission to protect children, strengthen families and prevent child abuse. One of its programs, the Crisis Nursery, helps families with much-needed child care. 

“The family is what’s important, and that’s what we’re here for,” Bonnie Peters, executive director of TFSC, said. 

The Crisis Nursery program offers free care for up to 72 hours for any child from birth to age 11 at three locations in West Valley City, Midvale and Sugar House. 

When parents have an emergency, don’t have anyone to watch their child or are even stressed and need a break, the Crisis Nursery offers a sanctuary for those parents. 

“There’s no stigma, no judgment when you come through the door,” Barbara Stallone, development director of TFSC, said. 

Stallone said sometimes parents have hospital emergencies, doctor’s appointments or a parent needs to get a protective order. 

“We don’t want the kids to be involved in all of that, we just want them here where it’s safe,” Stallone said. “It’s much easier than trying to take three kids under five to a doctor’s appointment.” 

Included with the child care, the nurseries offer wrap-around services as well where they have mental health counselors, classes—parent education, anger management, women’s domestic violence survivors are a few examples—offered in English and Spanish or in-home parenting programs that offers a one-on-one collaboration. 

“The wrap-around services we have are very important, that’s how we achieve the results that we do in each of our programs. If someone has a problem in one area then we have other areas that can come in and augment the situation,” Peters said. “We’re happy we have that, we’re proud of it and we’re looking forward to have people know more about us.”

Each location was a home donated by a local benefactor. While West Valley’s nursery was established more recently in 2008, the Sugar House nursery opened in 1977 and the Midvale location soon followed in the early 80’s serving the county for almost four decades. TFSC has plans to open a nursery in Glendale as well.

Stallone said they look at areas with trends of substantiated abuse claims and whether it’s disproportionate to neighboring areas. At the moment, Stallone said they need more money to open a center in Glendale unless another benefactor can donate a home. 

The homes are equipped with a kitchen, a play area, boys’ and girls’ rooms with bunk beds, necessary hygienic care and a room for a house parent to stay.

“The kids are not uptight about coming here, it’s a home atmosphere, it’s like going to grandma’s house…so the kids are not traumatized. The kids are more playful and more comfortable,” Peters said. 

West Valley City is normally its busiest location being open 24 hours. That may change with Midvale to be open 24 hours starting Oct. 3. The nurseries care for about 12 kids every day with a four to one ratio of kids to staff, made up of foster grandparents, staff workers and volunteers who all pass background checks. 

While TFSC watches for abuse claim trends, Peters said it’s hard to quantify the number of child abuse cases that don’t happen, but those numbers don’t increase in areas near the crisis nurseries. 

“How do you document abuse that hasn’t happened? You really can’t, but we know that we have saved kids from being abused and killed…sometimes just being away from your children can save your sanity,” Peters said. 

“If you’re a mother with two toddlers and a newborn and you haven’t slept in three days, you can come drop all three kids off, go home and sleep for four hours and you’re a new person,” Stallone added. 

To see how they are affecting the families coming to the centers, parents are given impact surveys. Questions include, “have you felt an increase in your ability to deal with familial stress,” or “do you believe your child was safer because you used this service?” The amount of people who said yes: more than 80 percent. 

“We try to watch the trend line carefully to make sure we are providing a value for the money we’re looking to raise,” Stallone said. 

In its 2015 annual report—the 2016 numbers aren’t available yet—TFSC had 76 percent of its finances come from government funding and grants and donations. The crisis nurseries received the largest portion of those finances with more than $600,000. 

The report also states that more than 61,000 hours of care was provided to 1,849 children who made 11,762 visits to the crisis nursery. This also includes 1,218 overnight stays and 11,554 meals. 

In order accomplish what the nurseries and all of TFSC’s other programs do, volunteers are essential. From 2015 to 2016, TFSC saw an increase from 1,200 to 1,600 volunteers. Stallone said the value of those volunteers’ service hours can range up to $260,000 if those volunteers were all paid. 

 But the results of what the nurseries grant are incalculable. 

“[The Crisis Nursery] provides service, help and healing for so many at the youngest level,” Peters said. Those benefits also extend to the parental level. 

“It’s okay to take a break from your kids, it doesn’t make you a bad mom, it makes you a great mom to recognize that filling your own cup means you can take better care of your kids,” Stallone said. “We let people feel like coming here and leaving their kids for a little bit of time is strengthening and helping them.”

The Midvale nursery is located at 777 West Center Street, the Sugar House nursery is at 2020 Lake Street and the West Valley nursery is at 3663 South 3600 West. 

For more information, go to or call 801-955-9110.