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July 5, 2009

Providing a break for stressed parents

By Michelle Martin


Baylee, nearly 2 years old, is trying out her words on child care worker Maggie Piggee, demanding ice chips for her stuffed toy frog.

“Froggy ice,” she says, as she climbs around on a toddler-size slide in the gymnasium at the Maryville Crisis Nursery.

In a nearby room, her 5-monthold brother Julian naps.

The children are among more than 287 kids from birth through age 5 who have spent time at the nursery since it opened three years ago. The program, similar to others in Rockford and in central Illinois, offers parents a safe place to leave their children for up to three days at a time while they attend to other urgent needs. So far, 172 families have taken advantage of it.

Those needs can be anything from medical issues to job interviews to finding a new place to live. Sometimes it can mean a mom is simply at the end of her rope, and needs some time to pull herself together, said assistant director Joanne Deuter.

For Sandra Carrillo, the nursery was a lifesaver — almost literally. The single mother of three saw the nursery’s director, Amy Kendal-Lynch, giving a presentation at the Department of Human Services Office in Skokie, but had to leave because of a blinding headache. The headaches had been coming for months, disrupting her nursing studies at Triton Community College and making it more difficult to care for her children.

After getting home, she looked at the brochure Kendal-Lynch had handed her and called. After hearing about the situation, Kendal- Lynch sent a cab to pick up Carrillo and her children and brought them to the nursery. Then the cab took Carrillo, then 28, to Resurrection Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“The doctor told me that if it had grown much more, I would have been blind,” she said.

After an MRI the next day, she picked up her children — ages 5, 4 and a few months — and got a delayed tour of the nursery.

“They were very happy there,” Carrillo said. “It was like a vacation for them.”

They ended up staying at the nursery about five times while she got treatment.

Fun for kids

Karen Lim said her children also enjoyed staying at the crisis nursery. She first called after her mother gave her a brochure. Lim, a married mother of two, was home with her kids after the second one was born, but felt isolated from neighbors, who mostly speak a different language, and from her friends, who were all still working.

She was at the end of her rope, she said, but it still took some time for her to make the call.

“I immediately felt relieved,” said Lim, who has since found a new job and is enjoying the time she spends with her family. “Amy was on the phone, and she gave me hope immediately.”

After “spending some time crying in Amy’s office,” Lim made arrangements for the kids to stay and for her to get some time to herself. When she picked them up, she said, her 2-year-old daughter had lots to say about what she did.

“She was excited about telling me everything that happened,” Lim said.

The nursery includes sleeping rooms for children, set up with a variety of cribs, toddler beds and twin beds, a gym with a track for riding toys, an art room, play rooms, a library and a water play room. It also includes bathrooms with child-size fixtures and tubs.

Each child who comes in is given a bath, and the clothes they are wearing are washed, dried and packed up to be sent home. The child, meanwhile, receives new clothes to wear each day he or she is there, and gets to keep the outfit they go home in. An average day includes indoor play, outdoor play, snacks and meals and naptime or quiet time for the older children.

“Their job while they are here is really just to play,” Deuter said.

As they play, staff members observe them to make sure they appear to be hitting developmental milestones, like Bailey, who was using her words and her large motor skills on the slide.

Staff members talk with parents when they drop off their children, to find out what situation they are trying to resolve and help them set goals to accomplish while the kids are at the nursery. They also talk with them when they pick up their children, and invite them to monthly parenting classes.

Children can stay at the nursery up to 30 days in a year, and the nursery is staffed to accommodate up to eight children at a time.

For information, visit s280942808. crisis_nursery or call (773) 205-3600.