By Heather Sleuter
Special to The Enterprise
It is estimated that one in four adults have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences. These experiences cause toxic stress that negatively alter a child’s development. The higher your ACEs score, the greater your risk for physical illnesses like heart disease and cancer, mental illness, addiction, and the more likely a person will be incarcerated.
ACEs are a root cause of some of the most harmful, persistent, and costly societal and health challenges facing our world today. The COVID-19 pandemic has added substantial fuel to this pervasive issue.
Friday, April 1, is the start of Child Abuse Prevention month. Over the past six years, Yolo County’s annual rate of substantiated cases of child maltreatment have exceeded California’s overall percentages for children birth to five years. Last year in Yolo County, this group made up over 47% of all cases of child abuse and neglect. These are the most critical years in a child’s development. Early intervention during this period changes the course of children’s lives. The Nursery offers 24/7 trauma-informed respite care and wrap around services for families. We have nine programs designed to mitigate the impact of past and prevent future ACEs.
Yolo County has one of the highest poverty rates in California. 20.9% of our county’s families and 15.3% of our children live in poverty. Over 95% of the families we serve at the Yolo Crisis Nursery are low-income, Medi-Cal eligible, and headed by a single parent.
The children we serve at the Nursery are experiencing the most dire of crises: 65% come from families experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity and 62% live with families at risk of or experiencing domestic violence (FY21 data).
At the Nursery, we take a whole family early intervention approach that targets the root cause of these crises. We offer trauma-informed care and wraparound services for families. Protecting children and preserving families is what we do best, with 99% of the respite care families we serve not entering child welfare services.
While the numbers tell the story, often the best way to understand the Yolo Crisis Nursery’s life transforming work is by sharing a client experience. Recently, we had the opportunity to provide services to Lori and her children. She was shattered and unsure when her storybook romance and marriage of 10 years evolved into an abusive relationship. Lori was in an unanticipated place — fearful for her and her children’s lives. When a rare opportunity presented itself, she gathered her girls and fled.
Suddenly homeless with two young daughters, Lori was isolated and scared. She found help at the Nursery, where our trauma-trained caregivers welcomed her with open arms. While Lori attended court hearings, job interviews, housing appointments, and counseling sessions, the Nursery provided the care, comfort and support that she and her daughters needed to make a fresh start.
Lori also worked with a Nursery coach through our 10-week Family Life Skills program. During this time, she got a restraining order, filed for divorce, enrolled in community college, established a daily nutrition and exercise routine, secured a job, and began to save money. After completing the program, Lori moved into a new home where she and her girls are safe and thriving.
While every client family we serve is in need of assistance with nowhere else to turn, Lori’s success is a wonderful example of how the Nursery’s services can be life aging and in some cases, life saving for families.
For the last 20 years, the Yolo Crisis Nursery has provided early intervention service to protect children and preserve families. We work to prevent future ACEs and to mitigate the impact of past ACEs for the children we serve.
Child abuse and neglect affects everyone, and we all have a role to play in making sure our Yolo community is a great place for children and families to thrive. Please join me in wearing blue on Friday to raise awareness and show your support for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Gather your family, friends, and colleagues and post a photo wearing blue online with #wearblue4kids and #4yolokids to spread the word. Please visit our website www.yolocrisisnursery.org to learn more about our trauma-informed care approach, programs and services, volunteer opportunities or to make a donation.
— Heather Sleuter is the executive director of the Yolo Crisis Nursery.