EMQ FamiliesFirst threw a lifeline to supporters of the Yolo Crisis Nursery this week, announcing that it is willing to continue operating the nursery for an additional six months while the community searches for a new host agency for the facility, which provides emergency care for children ages 0-5 whose parents are in crisis.
In addition to giving the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery extra time to secure a new host agency, the extension will allow for enough time for that new agency to obtain the necessary licensing and for the Friends to continue raising funds to operate the nursery.
FamiliesFirst had announced in March that it would no longer operate the nursery effective June 30 — a decision that stemmed in part from fallout over problems that arose at the agency’s other Davis facility, a group home for troubled youths on Fifth Street.
Those problems came to a head last June when the state Department of Social Services announced it would revoke FamiliesFirst’s license to operate the group home after an investigation into reports of frequent runaways and alleged criminal activity. The investigation followed the arrests of two teenage boys on suspicion of forcibly raping an 11-year-old girl. All three youths were FamiliesFirst residents.
Davis police said at the time that they had responded to multiple disturbances in the community involving youths from FamiliesFirst — youths who had generated more than 500 calls for service between January and June of 2013.
Shortly after the state took action against FamiliesFirst, Yolo County’s mental health department followed suit, announcing it would not re-certify the agency to provide mental health services to certain emotionally disturbed children covered by Medi-Cal.
Those actions led FamiliesFirst, in turn, to suspend operations at the facility early last fall.
Since then, the agency has reached a settlement with the state that would allow FamiliesFirst to continue providing services, but Eva Terrazas, FamiliesFirst’s director of public policy and government affairs, said Wednesday the agency had decided not to do so.
“Although we were able to come to a satisfactory resolution with the state Department of Social Services, we have decided not to restart the residential and non-public school programs,” she said.
Terrazas said the settlement with the state would have allowed FamiliesFirst to reopen the group home for a maximum capacity of 18 youths and allow the agency to reapply for incremental increases over time up to a maximum of 54 children, still below the 60-plus children at the facility when the state took action last year.
“In short, we do not believe that we can rebuild the children’s residential and school programs to their former capacity on a timeline that is fiscally viable for our nonprofit organization,” Terrazas explained.
Instead, she said, FamiliesFirst “has made a very thoughtful but difficult decision to sell (or lease) the Davis campus.”
EMQ FamiliesFirst has owned the 6-acre site on Fifth Street since 1994, employing 125 people just a year ago. Some of those employees were laid off over the past year, others relocated to other FamiliesFirst facilities and a dozen remain at the Davis campus, Terrazas said.
Even before making the decision to shutter the group home, EMQ FamiliesFirst concluded it could no longer run the crisis nursery in Davis either, reporting that the nursery had been operating at a deficit requiring $370,000 in donations from the agency itself.
“This is the only program that (EMQ FamiliesFirst) runs at that level of deficit,” Terrazas said in March.
Located on a residential street in Davis, the crisis nursery served 265 Yolo County children in 2013, providing emergency overnight care, emergency day care, case management for parents by a licensed social worker and more.
The nursery has been credited with saving hundreds of children from abuse or neglect during its 13-year history — abuse or neglect that parents themselves have said likely would have occurred had they not had a safe place to bring their children.
On Wednesday, Terrazas said EMQ FamiliesFirst is prepared to continue operating the nursery for an additional six months while supporters find a new host agency to take over the services and programs.
“The Friends of the Crisis Nursery and the Yolo community are raising the funds necessary to operate the nursery during this transition period,” Terrazas said.
As of this week, that fundraising effort had netted $75,000, three-fourths of the way to the $100,000 goal the Friends set in April.
Friends president Heidy Kellison on Wednesday praised FamiliesFirst’s decision to continue operating the nursery for another six months.
“We are grateful to EMQFF and their statewide board of directors for giving us the runway we need to stabilize the nursery and find a strong new umbrella organization,” Kellison said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident our efforts will be successful.”
To donate to the fundraising effort, visit www.friendsofycn.org.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy