Crisis Nursery provides support to parents in Wright County

A new partnership in Wright County is helping support families who may not have anywhere to turn. The county is now working with Lutheran Social Service to provide its Crisis Nursery, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“There’s a lot of need in the area,” said Kate Hengy-Gretz, the crisis nursery facilitator for LSS.

Wright County has operated a crisis nursery since 1992. In the fall, however, the organization running the program was unable to continue doing so because budgetary limitations.

“We were committed to continuing Crisis Nursery services in some manner or form,” said Michelle Miller, the county’s social services manager.

Through the collaboration with Lutheran Social Service, it reopened in May.

“We are really excited that this partnership will allow us to continue being a resource to families in our area,” Miller said. “We are seeing a greater need for crisis nursery services during COVID-19. The pandemic has really amplified the stressors that can make it hard for people to be the parents they want to be. Crisis Nursery is one of the ways we are here for them.”

So far, they’ve helped three families find about 13 hours of childcare.

“There are times when parents need additional support so that’s what we’re here for,” Hengy-Gretz said. “Sometimes it’s just a phone call so a parent or caregiver can vent through a situation, sometimes they call and say, ‘Hey, I need some diapers, I need some wipes any idea of where I can get formula?’ or help paying my gas and electric.”

She explained that caregivers, whether it’s parents, grandparents or others, can call the Crisis Nursery phone line. Lutheran Social Service will then reach out to its network of licensed daycare and foster care providers to see if there is anyone available to care for the children.

“With COVID, what we’re finding is a lot of the requests we’re getting are because maybe their 7 or 8-year-old is no longer in school and the caregiver has a medical appointment, or needs to meet with employment services,” Hengy-Gretz said. "A lot of it is, at this time anyway, covering physical therapy, mental health counseling, other types of medical appointments."

They provide childcare for short blocks of time or up to 72 hours.

“We try to talk to people about support systems if there’s any way that they can use their typical support system and if there’s anything we can do to help facilitate that, brainstorm transportation those kinds of things,” she said. “For many of these families, they did not have any other option.”

Lutheran Social Service operates crisis nurseries in Duluth, St. Cloud and Mankato as well.

“They have been such an immense blessing for me,” said Seirra Otto, a mother who lives in Mankato.

She is raising two daughters, a 14-year-old and a 5-year-old. When her older daughter was little, Otto was able to find a daycare through the Crisis Nursery.

This winter, she found herself in a difficult situation again when cold and flu season hit.

“Because my (younger) daughter’s program was new, they didn’t have plans in place for when a lot of their staff got sick,” Otto said. “Instead of having substitute teachers come in, they would close down the school.”

Then when COVID-19 hit, she said, “It shut down the school indefinitely for the whole rest of the year.”

During these months, Otto was able to get childcare services through the Crisis Nursery. She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it allowed her to continue working, saving her job.

“I think more than any other resource around, they get it,” she said. “They understand what parents go through and I think for me, as a single parent, that they’ve been the most helpful out of all of the resources my family uses."

“There’s a lot of things right now that’s not in your control,” Otto added. “There’s people that believe in you and are willing to help you and I think that’s what we need right now in this world.”

We also spoke with Heather, who did not want to provide her last name, over Zoom. She is a licensed foster care provider in Mankato.

“I think it’s wonderful, we need more of these,” she said.

Heather has been a Lutheran Social Service Crisis Nursery provider for eight years, caring for infants through 11-year-old children.

“They come into my home, I treat them like my own kiddos,” she said. “It’s a time away from parents, which can be hard and difficult for kids sometimes and so I try really hard to do fun things … painting fingernails, to watching a movie, to going outside.”

She told us that during the COVID-19 pandemic she’s seen an increase in sibling-groups requiring care.

“There’s lots of times when parents just need a break and they need to know they can send their children somewhere where it’s said,” Heather said.

The nurseries also provide parents a resource to call to help work through problems.

Plus, the program provides essential items like diapers, wipes and clothing. Lutheran Social Service told us they are always looking for donations.

They are also seeking childcare providers and volunteers to help with the nursery programs.

For more information call 320-406-8606, or click here.