Crisis nursery steps in for stressed parents
When a mother needs a break and has nowhere to turn, two doctors and a former teacher hope she will bring her child to Larimer.
They are co-founders of Jeremiah's Place, a family support nonprofit that plans to open Pittsburgh's only crisis nursery in January in the Kingsley Association building on Frankstown Avenue.
“We're going to do the job of taking care of the kids for a bit of time, to relieve the stress, but our real work is with the family,” said Dr. Lynne Williams, a pediatrician. “We don't want to duplicate services already in Pittsburgh; we want to connect the family to those services.”
Jeremiah's Place will provide 24/7 care for children 6 and younger for up to 72 hours, Williams said. Research shows that kids who experience stressful events such as physical abuse, witnessing domestic abuse or a parent with a substance abuse problem can develop mental and physical health issues as adults, Williams said.
“If you are a young child living in an environment where you're exposed to a lot of stress, that stress itself, if you don't have someone to help you cope, those high levels of hormones will alter your body,” Williams said. “That level of hormones is toxic to your body.”
Williams learned about crisis nurseries from a medical student in 2010, and surveyed 78 families in the East End to determine whether a need for such a facility exists in Pittsburgh. She found that 14 percent of parents, sometime during the past year, left their children with someone whose last name they didn't know, whose address they didn't know, who had an anger management problem or who they knew couldn't care for a child.
“To me, that's way too many kids being exposed to a dangerous situation on a pretty regular basis,” Williams said.
Co-founder Dr. Tammy Murdock, an obstetrician/gynecologist at a health center in Squirrel Hill, said watching families implode motivated her to research crisis nurseries.
“I can tell you that they don't want to hurt their kids, but I can tell they're going to fall hard and fast,” Murdock said. “There's no safety net. They have no resources, so when one thing happens, it blows up and they end up being around risky folks.”
The founders plan to work with parents to alter their routines, said Eileen Sharbaugh, a former teacher and third co-founder who works with mothers and young children.
“Sometimes it's just a little bit of time away from the child that will help the parent gain some clarity to determine what their goals are,” Sharbaugh said. “We want to work with the parent so the crisis doesn't just continue to re-occur.”
The founders looked to other crisis nurseries, including Providence House in Cleveland, for guidance. Nearly 7,000 children have stayed at Providence since it opened in 1981. A study showed that 82 percent of kids who stayed there did not end up in foster care even five years after leaving the nursery, CEO and President Natalie Leek-Nelson said.
“There's a belief that you can't help these families, that they're too far gone, the parents grew up in crisis, but we know that's not true,” Leek-Nelson said. “These are families that are desperate for help, but terrified to ask because the first thing that usually happens is their kids get removed.”
Jeremiah's Place received a $100,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in May and is pursuing other donations, Williams said. She said the nursery will be licensed as a child care and residential care facility by the state Department of Public Welfare. Parents could drop off children without involvement from the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families, Williams said.
“We can give them a healthy alternative,” Williams said.
County Human Services Director Marc Cherna considers the nursery a child abuse prevention program: “I think it's a good thing that it's starting, and we'll see how it goes.”
Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh region’s philanthropic sector at top of nation’s pack
- Merged United Way to reveal 5-year plan aimed at Western Pa. children
- Group reports ethnically charged comments in Moroccan taxi driver’s Hazelwood shooting
- 7 percent in Allegheny County able to carry concealed gun
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gets $500K estate gift
- Mt. Lebanon puts temporary halt on deer kill
- School bus heavily damaged in Homewood fire
- Reliability of DNA evidence — vomit found near Mt. Oliver murder scene — doubted in trial
- Allegheny County Controller Wagner won’t appeal judge’s audit ruling
- Newsmaker: Debra A. Lewis
- Lane restrictions announced for portion of Route 28