Frequently Asked Questions
What is the history of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery?
Vanessa Behan was a two-year old child who died of severe physical abuse in Spokane on January 9, 1982. At trial, the alleged perpetrator of this crime, Vanessa’s stepfather, was found innocent when Vanessa’s mother refused to testify against him in court.
The outcome of the trial and the sadness surrounding Vanessa’s death prompted local businessman Bill Bialkowsky to mount a campaign to establish a place where children would be safe and removed from harms way. Through his efforts and the generosity of the Spokane community, funds were raised to purchase a 1920s-era home that was renovated and opened as the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery in 1987. In its first year, 427 children were served.
As the need for the Crisis Nursery’s services grew, it became apparent the existing home was too small. Another capital campaign was launched and a new and larger facility was built in 2000. Today the Crisis Nursery takes in approximately 4,000 children every year. Since the Nursery opened its doors in January 1987, it has provided a safe haven for more than 72,000 children.
What is a crisis nursery?
A crisis nursery is a residential care facility which provides short-term, 24-hour care to children, protecting them from crisis situations that could lead to incidences of abuse or neglect. The two major purposes of the nursery are to provide: 1) a safe environment for the child and 2) a non-threatening resource for parents to help them alleviate the crises in their lives.
The concept of crisis nurseries as a child abuse prevention tool originated on the east coast in the mid-1970s and has since spread across the country. There are several other facilities in Washington. However, the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery is the only such facility in the Inland Northwest, serving families from as far away as Moses Lake, North Idaho and eastern Montana.
The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery provides care for children from birth through age six. We also offer support for parents in the form of crisis counseling, referrals to community social service agencies, as well as parenting classes and family support groups. The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery does not duplicate any existing child care service and is the only place for temporary respite care for children under the age of seven in the entire community.
Who uses the Crisis Nursery?
Parents who love their children enough to ask for help! Often the Crisis Nursery is utilized by parents whose lives are so overwhelming that they may not have the emotional and/or physical resources necessary to provide a safe environment for their children. They may be dealing with a variety of issues, any one of which can easily escalate to a crisis situation. Some of these issues include:
- social isolation
- domestic violence
- substance abuse
- poor parenting skills
- inappropriate expectations of their children
- low self-esteem
- emotional injuries caused by their own history of abuse and neglect
With the Crisis Nursery's non-judgmental and support, parents in these circumstances often find the strength to build positive lives for themselves and their children.
How long can children stay at the Crisis Nursery?
Children can stay at the Nursery for up to 72 hours. However, a child will never knowingly be returned to an unsafe environment. The average length of stay is about 24 hours. There is no limit on how often a family can utilize our services as long as they are in crisis.
How do you keep from being used as a free baby-sitting service?
The Crisis Nursery is not a baby-sitting service, although affordable child care is listed as one of the most successful child abuse prevention measures available. All first-time, voluntary self-referrals will be accepted if the clients' needs fall within the scope of the Nursery's function.
Parents who begin to show a pattern of repeated Nursery use are counseled about appropriate use of our services; they are assisted and strongly encouraged to find the necessary support services to take their family out of the crisis situation that keeps bringing them to us. However, the reality is that we will NEVER allow a child to remain in a potentially dangerous situation no matter how much we question the parent(s) good intentions.
How is the program funded?
The founding board of directors made the decision that the organization would not rely on state or federal funding, because such funding imposes certain restrictions and conditions. Instead, the board opted to seek private donations and support. 100% of the Nursery’s current budget of $1.3 million dollars comes from such contributions. This funding primarily is raised through donations from individuals, corporations, service organizations, foundations/trusts, and fund-raising events.
Can I support the Crisis Nursery with my United Way pledge?
The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery is not a United Way member agency. However, United Way participants can designate their pledge to go to the Crisis Nursery.
How is the Crisis Nursery staffed?
The Nursery is staffed 24 hours a day with trained child care specialists, called house parents. Many shifts are assisted by child care volunteer and house parent volunteers. The Crisis Nursery administrative staff includes the executive director, volunteer director, donor relations director, and program director.
How can volunteers help?
We could not do our work without the hundreds of volunteers who are committed to serving Spokane’s children. Trained volunteers can assist with child care. Others can help in the areas of fund-raising, clerical, receptionist, yard care, janitorial, and building maintenance and repair. For more specific volunteer information, please visit our Volunteer web page.
What will the staff do if an abused child arrives at the Nursery?
We are not a division of Child Protective Services (CPS) however, as mandated by Washington State law, the Crisis Nursery staff must report any suspicion of child abuse and neglect. Any suspected abuse or neglect will be reported immediately to Child Protective Services. Our parents are informed of our responsibilities upon intake
Our Family Support Specialists are happy to talk with you further about our policies and practices in an effort to make you as comfortable as possible in using our services.
What if a child arrives at the Nursery in need of medical or psychological assistance?
A nurse practitioner, two pediatricians and neo-natal intensive care nurse are all on-call for any consultation needed by staff. They make visits to the Nursery as needed to evaluate any medical condition. Medical professionals regularly review files and Nursery procedures for caring for ill or abused children. A medical consultant has conducted several staff in-services on caring for children with chronic medical conditions.
In addition, there are several psychologists who are on-call 24 hours a day to talk with parents whose emotional and psychological needs are more complex than our crisis counseling services offer. They serve as advisors to the Program Coordinator and Executive Director.
How does a child get admitted to the Nursery?
It is recommended that parents call first, however emergency walk-ins are accepted.
Children can be brought in ONLY by a legal guardian(s).
No one can pick up the child except the admitting parent(s), or their designees.
The presence of a child at the Nursery is absolutely confidential. Information will be released to no one except the admitting parent(s), or their designees.
Sick children can be admitted to the Nursery as long as they are "not contagious". If a child becomes ill, their parents will be contacted, the child will be treated by Nurse Practitioners and isolated from the rest of the children.
During the intake process each child’s head is examined to see if they have head lice. If the child has head lice the lice will be treated before he/she is placed with the other children.