When my husband and I went to deliver our first born, I remember that we drove past the Crisis Nursery, located directly behind Provena Covenant Hospital in Urbana. I decided to make a little joke at our expense—the two of us, new parents who were soon to be in over our heads.
“We’ll be going there next–HA!” was my wisecrack.
After our second child was delivered, I looked out of our hospital room window and again glimpsed the back of the Crisis Nursery. “Get their number, honey; we’ll be calling them soon—haHA!” I quipped.
Ugh. If only I knew.
Truth is, “Crisis Nursery” is a bit of a misnomer. While it does offer free, high-quality childcare for families in crisis, the nursery really is an excellent childcare resource for EVERYONE in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding areas.
Consider this: They offer playgroups for families with children up to five years of age (kids “age out” on their sixth birthday). For every session a parent/caregiver and child attend, the family earns four hours of free childcare to be used any time, day or night–no crisis necessary. When a family completes a group, the hours are doubled.
Here are three more things that you may not know about the Crisis Nursery, but should:
1. The facility is beautiful.
“Once people see it, it changes their whole perception of what it is,” says licensed clinical social worker Jennifer Sampson, one of the family specialists employed by the nursery.
The heart of the center is the cheery divided play area; infants to the right, “walkers” to the left. There is a family-style dining area (meals are provided by Covenant Hospital) and quiet time/sleeping rooms.
Patio doors in the older kids’ play area lead to a playground and gardens; the latter are maintained by the U of I Extension’s Master Gardeners. Sensory, shape, and vegetable gardens bloom in the warm months.
The bright, open floor plan, excellent resources, and homey décor—along with a maximum three-to-one worker to child ratio—make The Crisis Nursery seem more like a pricey private daycare than a completely free community resource. Truly, it is designed so that any parent would feel instantly comfortable leaving her child there for a time.
2. They want to reach ALL parents.
The Crisis Nursery’s groups aim to offer a little something to all parents of young children. Playgroups for kids aged 0-3 take place at the Developmental Services Center in Champaign (Jennifer reports that they have an awesome indoor playground) on Mondays from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. and at the Tolono Public Library on Fridays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. There is no need to pre-register; you can take care of that when you attend.
Two other playgroups focus on parent-child interaction (if you haven’t already, read Amy’s excellent op-ed about how hard it can sometimes be to want to play with the kiddos) and are for families with children between the ages of 3-5. They meet at the Crisis Nursery on Saturdays from 10:00-11:00 a.m. and at the Parent Wonders facility in Rantoul on Wednesdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
One other group focuses on parent support; parents and their children up to five years of age can attend. It takes place at the nursery on Mondays from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Families who attend any of these free programs earn credits for childcare at the facility. Program times and dates change periodically; call the nursery at 337-2731 for the most current information.
Jennifer Sampson also fronts the nursery’s “Beyond Blue” support group for women who have, or are at risk for developing, perinatal depression. Women who are pregnant may attend, as can mothers of babies up to one year of age. Support groups, parent-child interaction groups, home visits, and respite and crisis care are available to the families who enroll in this program.
The nursery also offers home visits and developmental assessments for those seeking such help.
3. Your family gets to define “crisis.”
I regret not knowing more about the Crisis Nursery those six or so years ago when I made the crack about needing their services. But I also regret thinking that it would be shameful to use their help if my family really was in a tight spot.
Parents call on the nursery for help when a childcare worker is sick and job loss is imminent, when a parent needs medical attention—for any number of easily valid reasons. Looking back, there was probably a time or two when I could have used a respite from two toddlers whose main sport was trying to murder each other. Had I known what the Crisis Nursery was all about, I gladly would have taken advantage of an afternoon’s break while my children were in their excellent care.
And that’s really all you need to say when you call: I need a break. They get it. They’ve been there. They want to help.
Can we be strong enough to let them?
The Crisis Nursery is located at 1309 W. Hill St. in Urbana. They encourage families needing immediate childcare to call before coming in. They can be reached at (217) 337-2731.
Rachael McMillan is a former high school teacher, social worker, cake decorator, and just about any other profession you can think of do-er. In addition to writing, tutoring, and giving talks about fair trade, she is currently staying home with the highly entertaining Jack and Kate.