MISSION: Saint Louis Crisis Nursery protects children by offering a free child care facility to parents in crisis with nowhere else to turn. “Everyday, we save babies’ lives, keep kids safe and build strong families—and we do that by providing a safe haven for children, birth through age 12, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explains Crisis Nursery CEO DiAnne Mueller.
HISTORY: Crisis Nursery has been helping St. Louis families for 27 years, according to Mueller. “Our history is really interesting—it was a joint project between the Junior League of St. Louis and the Coalition of 100 Black Women. Both of those groups are still involved with us today,” she explains. Crisis Nursery began with a singular location, Mueller notes. “Over the years, because of the need, we now actually have 13 locations.” This includes five nurseries, seven outreach centers and one regional administrative office, all working to serve approximately 7,000 children a year.
COMMUNITY IMPACT: “We go into low-income neighborhoods and hand out information about the nursery,” Mueller says, noting that if a family is in crisis, children can be admitted to the nursery immediately. “That night the children can have a safe place to sleep, a bubble bath…” The lists continues, including art therapy, a physician’s examination and balanced meals. “Everything that the child could possibly need is provided while they’re with us; we tell our parents they don’t need to bring anything, as many of the children wouldn’t have anything to bring.”
While their child stays at Crisis Nursery, the parent (or parents) works to solve their problem—be it fleeing from a domestic violence situation or finding housing. Mueller explains that most children only stay at the nursery for two or three days. “When things have calmed down, the families are reunited. Ninety-nine percent of our children return to the parents, because now the parent is able to handle the situation. If they’re going home, it’s because home is now a safe place.” Other Crisis Nursery services still are available after the family reunites, including the 24-hour Helpline and Family Empowerment Program.
One percent of Crisis Nursery children cannot be returned to their family, and the reasons vary. For example, a parent who is not physically able to care for her child due to a severe medical problem may be offered voluntary, temporary foster care referrals. On the other hand, if the child discloses something regarding abuse, or if evidence of abuse can be seen, the proper government agencies are notified.
“I’ve had a number of parents tell me if the nursery wasn’t available, their child might not be alive,” Mueller says, explaining the desperation felt by parents in deeply troubled situations. “In 2012, in the metropolitan area, 14 children were killed by their mother or father, or by the mother’s boyfriend. We still have work to do, and we’re doing it.”
WHAT/WHEN/WHERE: CELEBRITY WAITRESSES’ AND WAITERS’ NIGHT, AUG. 15, AT PLAZA FRONTENAC
Get dinner at a participating Plaza Frontenac restaurant and be served by a local celebrity. While the food and drinks are at normal menu prices, ‘tip’ money will be collected to support Saint Louis Crisis Nursery. Participating restaurants include: BrickTop's in Center Court, BRIO Tuscan Grille, Canyon Café and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To find out more about Saint Louis Crisis Nursery, call 292-5770 or visit crisisnurserykids.org.
ON THE BOARD: KAREN BARCLAY-HUGHES
Crisis Nursery board secretary Karen Barclay-Hughes has been involved with the organization almost as long as she’s lived in St. Louis. Barclay-Hughes, a Wells Fargo Advisors senior VP, moved to the area five years ago from Richmond, Va.
The company brought on a community affairs director who was able to help Barclay-Hughes find area organizations to work with; Crisis Nursery seemed more than worthy of her time. “I said I really want to be active, and she told me about the Crisis Nursery,” she says. “It seemed perfect, and it has been.” Barclay-Hughes says she also is involved with her church, Eureka United Methodist Church, as well as other organizations through her company. This includes the United Way and the Susan G. Komen Race.
Barclay-Hughes credits Crisis Nursery as proactively preventing child abuse. “It gives parents a place where they can take their children and know that they are safe, while they deal with whatever stress is happening to them—it could be homelessness, domestic violence or a health crisis,” she says. “It prevents parents from taking it out on their children.”