Graduation Celebration a First Year Milestone for Klamath Falls Relief Nursery
In August 2020, amid the throes of a global health crisis, LCS Northwest took a bold step and launched A Family Gathering Place relief nursery in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the team from serving children in a classroom setting at that time, so they enrolled families for outreach services instead, said program manager Joseph Maurer. Services included weekly home visits, referrals to community resources and basic needs support.
Relief nurseries such as A Family Gathering Place serve families with young children who need some additional support. Parents may be struggling with substance use, housing insecurity, loss of employment, domestic violence or other challenges that interfere with parenting.
The programs support both parents and children with services designed to strengthen families and prepare kids for kindergarten.
LCS Northwest operates three other relief nurseries, all in Yamhill County, Oregon.
As pandemic restrictions were lifted, A Family Gathering Place added therapeutic classroom services. Six families transitioned from the outreach component to enrolling their preschoolers in twice-weekly classroom sessions. The trauma-informed model offers healing experiences and healthy interactions for the children, while continuing to support parents with monthly home visits.
Last August, the staff organized a celebration when four of the children graduated from preschool. They held a ceremony complete with caps and gowns for the kids, and treated the youngsters and their families to a bowling party. The program also provided school clothes, supplies and haircuts for the newly minted kindergarteners, and helped parents connect with their child’s new school.
“The graduation was a milestone and so amazing,” Joseph said. “It was so much fun and so powerful to see the families there. The parents were able to witness and participate with the kids in celebrating this accomplishment.”
Joseph and his team are looking forward to their second full year of operation. In April, they plan to move the relief nursery into a larger space so they can add a second classroom for toddlers. They also anticipate adding parent education classes and respite care.
Longer term, the program is working toward greater diversity on their team and with the families that they serve. They have had conversations with the Klamath Tribes, and there is interest in one day opening a satellite nursery that could better serve tribal families. The team is also working on outreach to the Latino community.