Crisis nurseries: Important services in a system of care for families and children

Author(s): Cole, S.A., Wehrmann, K.C. , Dewar, G. and Swinford, L. (2005)

Published In: Children and Youth Services Review, 27 (9): 995-1010

Study Aim/Purpose: This study sought to describe the program participants and services and begin to e the impact of crisis nurseries for children and families in Illinois.

Summary of Methods: This cross sectional study analyzed administrative data reported by five crisis nurseries to the Illinois Department of Human Services for State fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003. These data sets were based on information provided by the families at program entry and at the exit interview on the number of adults and children serv ed, whether the children were at risk of being placed in foster care, in homeless families, or had developmental disabilities, the reasons caregivers requested crisis nursery services, reasons some parents were turned away, support services provided by the crisis nurseries and through community referrals, and information on selected outcomes as perceived by the parents. Key outcomes measured for this study were parental stress level, potential for parental child abuse and neglect, and parenting skills (measured using 3 of the 15 items from ARCH Form 5.2).

Summary of Key Results: In the first year of the study 79% of caregivers using crisis nursery services reported decreased stress and 90% of the caregivers in year 3 reported decreased stress after crisis nursery use. Similarly, 73% of caregivers in year 1 reporting improved parenting skills after crisis nursery use and 96% of the year 3 group reported a similar improvement. Caregiver perception of risk of maltreatment also improved from 73% of year one caregivers reporting reduced risk of maltreatment after crisis nursery use to 96% reporting the same decrease in year 3.

Study Limitations: The authors note that because the analysis in this study used aggregate data routinely reported by the crisis nurseries to IDHS, case level information was protected and unavailable for analysis. However, they suggest that if this kind of data were available, it would allow for a stronger analysis of the factors impacting for whom and how crisis nurseries best improve outcomes.

Authors’ Discussion/Conclusions: The authors discuss the many ways that “crisis nurseries in Illinois are a vital community resource in the system of care for young children and their families.” They also recommend that future evaluation resea individual nursery u rch be designed that is able to use data on the characteristics of sers and link those variables to determine associations between characteristics of nursery participants, services provided, and outcomes. ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center 15