Tommy was an angry little boy. His mommy was rarely around, and when she was nearby, he was ignored. Now he and his sister, Amy, had been taken to live with his grandmother.
A 3-year-old knows how to have a tantrum, and Tommy excelled in his ability.
Grandmother Sheila, who went from quietly living alone to becoming, literally overnight, the sole caregiver of two confused and sad children, had her own rollercoaster of emotions to deal with — guilt that she hadn’t recognized the depth of her daughter’s substance abuse, love and worry about the welfare of her grandchildren, and anxiety over the parenting tasks ahead of her.
She needed help.
At the suggestion of a county social worker, Sheila came to the Yolo Crisis Nursery for child care while she tended her own, frequent medical appointments. And it was there, she found much more than “babysitting.” At the nursery, Sheila discovered a lifeline of ideas and information about how to cope with her new, intense parenting responsibilities.
“Sheila certainly had her hands full and didn’t have family or friends to help,” said Heather Vasquez, family services coordinator for the Nursery. “Tommy was still in diapers so she couldn’t take him to a preschool with his sister. Sheila was with Tommy all day long and exhausted by his behavior — hitting, kicking, not listening. His speech skills were poor and it was very hard to understand what he was saying, which only increased his frustration and anger at everyone around him.
“Tommy’s behavior is typical for children who’ve not had consistent care or boundaries,” Heather continued. “He lacked social skills and couldn’t handle direction. He was living in pure survival mode.”
Nursery staff worked closely with Sheila on parenting skills. The Nursery’s phone counseling service was available any time she needed advice. In the safe, calm environment of his grandmother’s care Tommy began to thrive, and in just six months, he behaved well enough to attend preschool. Once there, speech therapy brought dramatic improvements to his communication abilities.
“Tommy became a very different little boy in a short period of time,” Heather said. “Now, he looks us in the eye, smiles and chats, rather than thrashing about and throwing himself on the floor. Once he knew he could count on his grandmother, the anger started to go away.”
Parenting is still a big job for Sheila, as it is for any caregiver of two small children. But she knows she is not alone and that the Nursery staff will continue to be available whenever she needs help.
The Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery support the nursery by raising awareness. You can join their efforts by contacting Heidy Kellison at [email protected] or (530) 753-2646.
If you need nursery services, please contact (530) 758-6680.
— Becky Heard and Heather Jeppeson are Co-Presidents of Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery.