News Local/State

Spotlight On Crisis Nursery: Celebrating 35 Years Of Supporting CU Children & Families

Crisis nursery child

Heather Wanninger/Courtesy of Crisis Nursery

The Crisis Nursery in Urbana is celebrating 35 years of providing support for families and children in the Champaign-Urbana area. 

The organization originally formed as a safe place for children to stay while caregivers were receiving medical care. 

Today, the organization continues to provide emergency-based child care services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no fees or income eligibility.

Stephanie Record is the executive director of the Crisis Nursery in Urbana.

Photo Credit: Heather Wanninger/Courtesy of Crisis Nursery

They also offer a variety of parent education classes and support groups for mothers at risk of depression during pregnancy or after the birth of a child, among other programs.

To learn more about the role the organization has played in the community over the years, Illinois Public Media spoke with Crisis Nursery’s Executive Director Stephanie Record.

The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Christine Herman: How has the Crisis Nursery grown and changed over the years, and what role does the organization play now in our community? 

Stephanie Record: Crisis Nursery really has grown over those 35 years. We have two programs that we run out of the nursery. 

One of those is the Safe Children program, which is still the crisis care component of what we do. That's where we care for children, ages birth to six, whose families are experiencing some sort of crisis, whether a medical emergency, a homelessness situation or domestic violence. Sometimes it’s a serious parental stress situation where parents just need a break so that they can be a safe place for their kiddos to be. 

The Crisis Nursery in Urbana provides childcare services for children ages birth to six.

Photo Credit: Heather Wanninger/Courtesy of Crisis Nursery

And then our Strong Families programming has really grown, especially over the last year. We have family specialists that go out and do home visits in the community with the families. They do parent-child interaction groups, support groups, parent education classes. So there's just a wide gamut of services underneath that Strong Families umbrella.

CH: And did those other programs develop as you recognized these are the needs of some of the families that you’re engaging with?

SR: Absolutely. One of the programs that we started about nine years ago is our Beyond Blue program. 

That program serves moms who have been identified as being at risk of having perinatal depression or postpartum depression. We provide intensive services for those families during that first year that child's life. 

And then we also have had a unique opportunity to work with children ages birth to three who come through our doors. We recently received a grant through the State Board of Education to run a prevention initiative program, to really help build skills with the moms and dads and the children and help prepare them for that next level of education moving forward.

CH: What do you see as the greatest needs today in our community, when it comes to children and families?

SR: It's so different for all the families. All their individual reasons for coming to the nursery are so unique.

We really have seen an increase in the number of families experiencing homelessness. So I think there's always a growing need for family shelters or places that families can stay in the interim. We're able to keep the children at our facility overnights, but we can't help the adults. And so it's just been a struggle, it's been a growing concern. 

I think that a lot of the families we work with are really doing everything they can to sustain their family and keep everybody together. But the financial piece of that has just been really challenging the last several years.

We have some parents who are working one or two jobs, trying to keep everything together, and they're working nontraditional hours. So getting daycare is a challenge, among other things. Things often seem like barriers to them when they're trying to really do what's best for their family. 

CH: When you look ahead, how do you hope to see the Crisis Nursery change or evolve going into the future?

SR: I've been there 11 years, and there's been a lot of growth. We still have a lot of times when we have to tell families we don't have enough space. And last year, we turned families away 1,000 times just because we were full. 

Our ultimate goal is to be able to staff the organization to the point where we don’t have to turn people away. We now have the new building that can accommodate those needs; just getting up to the staffing levels and the financial means to support that is probably our biggest goal moving forward.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman