When children and families at risk for child abuse or neglect receive services from the skilled and caring professionals at Family Relief Nursery of Cottage Grove, magic happens in their lives.
Helping local children and families ”Harvest the Magic,” Creswell Family Relief Nursery sponsors and supporters came together for this year’s annual Sigh of Relief fundraiser on Nov. 9, raising $11,300 to support Creswell’s FRN classroom, now in its third year operating in a modular unit at Creslane Elementary School.
The fundraiser’s Gold Sponsors were TJ’s Restaurant & Lounge and NW Natural; Silver Sponsors were South Lane County Fire & Rescue and Banner Bank. Thanks to their generosity, all donations go directly to support FRN’s child abuse/neglect prevention efforts.
Guests at the event, held in the Creswell High School commons, were treated to piano music by CHS student pianist Jackson Velarde as they dished up dinner from the taco bar and enjoyed a variety of cookies.
The night’s ”Harvest the Magic” theme reflected the fall season and the ”magic” that FRN works every day for its client families and children in Cottage Grove, Creswell and North Douglas.
”Building resilience for a magical future is exactly what you are doing here in Creswell,” FRN Executive Director Diane Hazen told attendees. ”Building a community where children can not only feel safe, nurtured and loved, but can hope for a future in which they can have the opportunity to achieve their full potential in life.”
Creswell mobilized to open an FRN satellite largely through the efforts of the late LaVae Robertson, for whom the Creswell classroom is named.
”Because of LaVae’s efforts and your support, children are learning how to trust, develop empathy, build self-confidence, friendships and connections with other children and adults in healthy ways,” Hazen said. ”These Creswell Nursery children are being prepared for success in kindergarten and beyond. That is the magic I’m talking about.”
The average number of risk factors for child abuse or neglect of parents enrolled in Creswell Nursery services is 19. These include serious challenges such as substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment and poverty.
”We have found that after just six months, families had fewer risk factors and they continue to decrease the longer they stay enrolled,” Hazen said. ”Folks, that’s making magic happen.”
Over the past two years, the Creswell Nursery has served 21 families in its home-based program and 34 children in its therapeutic classes for wobblers and preschoolers – 29 of whom were considered very high risk, in crisis and needing immediate support. Creswell’s therapeutic classes are currently operating at capacity.
Creswell First! funded the Creswell Nursery’s playground structure, bark chips, classroom chairs and a table. Other generous donors funded additional furniture and classroom needs. Foundation grants helped start an infant support group, including delivery of Welcome Baby Baskets.
Hazen also recently accepted a $45,000 grant to begin respite care at the Creswell Nursery. ”Now, parents can bring their children in order to keep important medical and counseling appointments, job interviews, or to get a desperately needed break,” she said.
Featured speaker Cara Copeland, executive director for the Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries, shared her reaction to a local newspaper article last fall that distressed and galvanized her.
”I was sitting about four blocks away from a home where a two-month-old baby had died from neglect,” Copeland related. The mother, ”Courtney” had five children, with her youngest, ”Lily” just eight weeks old. Using meth and marijuana to cope with life stresses including severe depression, ”Courtney” fell asleep one night with tiny ”Lily” beside her; during the night, she rolled over and accidentally suffocated the infant.
”My despair was paralyzing,” Copeland said. ”How could this have happened so close to me? How could I have missed this family in need? Why hadn’t we reached them in time? I sat at my desk weeping because I had the solution … that could and should have kept sweet ‘Lily’ alive. Sitting there, I could hear the little footsteps of children playing in my Relief Nursery, while this family experienced the trauma of losing their baby girl.”
Across the state last year, 30 children lost their lives to child abuse and neglect – ”a fate that we know is preventable,” Copeland said. Children under age six accounted for 57 percent of those deaths: ”Children in our own neighborhoods – children like ‘Lily.’”
In 2017, there were 11,077 child abuse/neglect cases in Oregon – 45 percent of those children were under age six and 12 percent were under a year old; 11,645 Oregon children spent time in foster care – 40 percent of them under age six.
The FRN model seeks to prevent more tragic deaths and shattered families by building parental resilience and protective capacity, minimizing harm to children while maximizing the entire family’s potential.
”We know that parent and child wellbeing are inextricably linked,” Copeland said. ”This means that as we build protective capacity in parents, children receive the benefit of growing up in a nurturing, attached and resilient family.”
Family Relief Nursery respite care builds parental resilience; social connections are created through playgroups and home visits; concrete support such as food, clothing and diapers are offered in times of need; home visits and parent education build parents’ knowledge about parenting and child development; and the social and emotional competence of children is enhanced and supported through therapeutic classroom environments.
In Oregon, 3,000 children and 2,600 families – each facing an average of 16 abuse/neglect risk factors – were served in 2017. Risk factors decreased 13 percent after six months and 25 percent after two years of receiving services through Relief Nurseries such as Creswell’s classroom.
”But none of this would have been possible without this community’s ongoing support,” Hazen told guests. And they responded, with open-hearted donations and pledges to help ensure that Creswell’s FRN classroom keeps functioning for the benefit of local children and families – and, ultimately, the entire community.
To that end, Hazen invited and encouraged everyone present and throughout the community to become partners in FRN’s mission to prevent child abuse and neglect by building stronger, more resilient families.
”Let’s continue to harness (and harvest) the power of (this) magic together,” she said.