St. Louis Crisis Nursery continues to provide family support services and emergency respite care for children during the COVID-19 outbreak

By Charlotte Beard

The needs of children and families who are in a social and/or economic crisis do not disappear when a disaster hits the nation. Those needs will no doubt be magnified during such a time, which is why the St. Louis Crisis Nursery remains in operation since opening its doors in 1986.

“We are still (doing) business as usual at the nursery,” states Molly Brown, Senior Clinical Director for St. Louis Crisis Nursery. “(We are) still available to the community 24/7 as we have been for 34 years now. We still have our 24-hour helpline (where individuals) can call any time of the day or night. We are still providing emergency respite care for kids whose families are in crisis, and we are still providing our family support services for families in the community.”

Though the COVID-19 crisis has affected the crisis nursery’s access to its volunteer pool that would work with the children, the nursery has remained vigilant with its mission. Temporarily, the nursery’s five sites (which includes the north county site at 11037 Breezy Point Lane) have been reduced to three active sites. St. Charles’ two locations are temporarily being serviced at the Wentzville site located at 700 Medical Drive.

“We needed to be able to support some of our staff who were at a higher risk category,” stated Brown, “and needed to be off right now. We want to make sure that as we’re taking care of our kids and families, we’re also taking care of our team. During this time, we typically have two staff members on each shift and additionally we have our program supervisor on site as well.” 

Brown stated that due to the pandemic, the organization has had to shift how they handle the support services, such as crisis counseling and providing connections to resources. She stated that prior to the pandemic these were in-home services. To maintain social distancing practices, these services are currently being provided via online video tools such as Zoom.

In addition to the temporary implementation of online video conferencing with parents and the pausing of certain programs, the nursery is taking precautions for direct services and short term care with the children where social distancing cannot be practiced.

“We’re taking the temperatures of our team members,” stated Brown. “We ask them to take their temperature before they come to work and then we take it again when they get to work just to double check. (In addition), we are taking the temperatures of our kids and our families upon arrival, making sure that they don’t have any symptoms and they haven’t been in contact with anyone (that has) symptoms. We have implemented a pretty rigorous cleaning protocol that we’re doing to make sure that we’re constantly sanitizing extra, extra, extra everything that we can, so that our environment is as clean and safe as it possibly can be. We are doing the best we can. You can’t social-distance from a little baby or a two-year old that needs a hug. So, we’re just trusting that extra cleaning measures that are in place are working. We have implemented a health assessment that we ask for before families arrive – checking for exposures to any potential contact with anyone that may be impacted by the virus. It’s just important that we’re still here for our kids and families that have nowhere else to go. That’s kind of what I think is motivating us still at this point, even though our team is a little nervous. We’re all a little nervous because there are so many unknowns here. But what drives us is knowing that there are kids and families that count on us to help them be safe. So, we want to be here for them.”

According to Brown, staff are required to care for their mental health not only during the pandemic but all year round, especially with the type of services they provide to children and families. 

“Our supervisors are doing a phenomenal job of supporting their team – doing extra check-ins, making sure that they are following the self-care plan.”

Brown stressed the importance of its team limiting the daily consumption of news and social media and taking advantage of getting fresh outdoor air.

Besides the reduction of volunteers to help with the children, the pandemic has affected the nursery sites’ ability to receive gently used donations for the children.

“We’re just trying to really reduce extra people coming in and out of our buildings,” stated Brown.

The nursery is accepting non-perishable food, diapers and cleaning supplies for distribution to the other nursery locations in need at theirRegional Administrative Headquarters located at11710 Administration Drive, Suite 18 in Maryland Heights. Though in-home visits are temporarily halted, members of the team have been dropping needed items at their clients’ front doors. The social distancing is maintained by staff alerting families of drop off times and when the items have been dropped.

Brown shared that the St. Louis Crisis Nursery is proud of the whole community. 

“We see so many other agencies, churches, schools, neighbors, etc. stepping up to look out for each other so we can come together and take care of as many people as possible. It makes our jobs a little easier to know that when families call us for help that there are other resources that we can connect them to. At a time like this it just makes me proud to be a part of this community and to see so many wonderful people who are doing anything and everything that they can to help. While it’s a scary time it’s also a time to be grateful for a great community (of which) we are a part.”

To learn more about St. Louis Crisis Nursery or to donate funds visit https://www.crisisnurserykids.org. To reach the 24-hour helpline call 314-768-3201.

CUTLINE: Submitted photo St. Louis Crisis Nursery continues to provide family support services and emergency respite care for children during the COVID-19 outbreak.