Relief Nursery Opens in Klamath Falls
Some of the youngest residents in Klamath Falls and their families are about to get a helping hand from LCS Northwest.
After earning certification this summer, A Family Gathering Place relief nursery opened its doors to its first clients in August. It took years of planning, but the opening was different than anticipated because of COVID-19. Instead of a therapeutic classroom model, the nursery is starting out with a respite model.
“We will start working with three to five critical needs families at first,” said Amy Frey, the Relief Nursery Coordinator. “Only one family at a time is allowed onsite right now. We had planned on having a classroom twice a week with 11 students. COVID has changed how we serve families, but it won’t change our mission of bringing holistic support to families in critical need.”
Relief nurseries in Oregon serve at-risk children from birth to age 5. The goals are to prevent child abuse and keep families together. We have a solid track record operating relief nurseries in Yamhill County, where a third A Family Place relief nursery location will open this fall.
The Klamath Falls nursery is located in the basement of Zion Lutheran Church. Recently, about 40 volunteers spent a week refurbishing the church’s playground.
“The team is doing a great job of building the infrastructure and partnerships to get the relief nursery started,” Amy said. “There is a lot of support in Klamath for a relief nursery because the need to support families is great, and people are pitching in to help.”
The Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries performed a needs assessment, and Klamath County and a nearby county had the highest need in the state for a relief nursery. That ranking is based on factors such as access to services, the local poverty rate and issues such as substance use disorders.
The Klamath relief nursery team includes Lead Teacher Sierra Gallup and Assistant Teacher Mary Roberts. Amy has built youth programs in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego before moving back to her hometown of Tulelake, CA, 30 miles south of Klamath Falls. Sierra and Mary bring the needed background in early childhood education. A local steering committee helped create the nursery.
The start of A Family Gathering Place was made possible by a $90,000 grant for startup from The Ford Family Foundation of Oregon. The Ford Foundation’s mission is “Successful Citizens and Vital Rural Communities.” A Family Gathering Place is planning on having its first fundraiser in the spring of 2021.
“What drew me to this job is understanding that many families in our county are born into generational poverty and addiction, and truly don’t have a fighting chance in hell,” Amy said. “This starts at birth. We all know how hard it is to break the poverty cycle. Our goal is to stabilize families so they can thrive.“
A Family Gathering Place will be adding a diaper bank and clothes closet. There is an outreach component to a relief nursery, as employees will work to connect parents with services.