A Siouxland community is facing the sudden loss of a crisis nursery that had been open for almost 20 years.
The Wesley Center Crisis Nursery in Norfolk had been averaging three or four children up to the age of 12 under their roof every day up until this past February. That's when nursery officials say they stopped receiving referrals from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The dwindling numbers forced officials to close the nursery...a move that was announced last night. Nursery officials without the reimbursements they received from the state for sheltering children...the shelter became too expensive to operate. Tracey Olson, Crisis Nursery Director said, "With the operational expenses, just in the upkeep of the house and staff wages, the math just wasn't adding up."
State DHHS officials have been trying to reduce the time children spend in shelter. And, this month, a new policy went into effect limiting the amount of time children can spend in shelters to 20 days.
DHHS officials say they want children to be raised in foster homes…as opposed to shelter homes. Thomas Pristow, DHHS Director of Children and Family Services said, "I think that there is a place for triage and assessment across the state of Nebraska, and we're welcome to work with the providers that are there to do that job. What I don't want to have is children spending 60, 80, 150 or 200 days in shelter care."
Wesley Center officials say children spent an average of two or three weeks in their facility. They also say they've been told that DHHS workers are being instructed to avoid sending children to crisis nurseries… a charge DHHS officials say isn't true.
Whatever the case may be, nursery staff say they'll be reaching out to surrounding communities to help re-open their doors and get back to helping children in need.
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