MANKATO — Since January of 2007, Candy Picka has been getting calls from parents who lost their job, parents who have been injured and parents without a place to sleep.
“A big one, though, is stressed parents,” she said. “They really need a break.”
Picka is the program coordinator for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Crisis Nursery, which recently received a $3,500 grant from the Mankato Clinic Foundation. The foundation also provided the startup grant for the crisis nursery.
The crisis nursery doesn’t exist in a single location. Instead, it relies on volunteers who open their home to children aged 0 to 12 for as briefly as a few hours and as long as three days.
A typical child’s stay begins with a phone call to Picka or, during nights and weekends, a volunteer. (The hotline is 507-995-9259.)
Picka then finds a host family, and sets up a call between the host and parents. Parents are expected to drop the child off at the host, then pick them up.
She said that process has worked out fairly well. Very rarely, a parent will not pick up their child on time or won’t have needed medication but those are the exceptions, she said.
Some parents worry that they’ll be “in the system” after using the crisis nursery. Picka said that’s not the case; parents don’t have to worry about a call from the county just because they use the crisis nursery.
Picka said the people who call are good parents.
“It’s parents wanting to do the right thing,” she said.
The host families are licensed through Lutheran Social Service for foster care, and they receive a small stipend for their time.
“We have some very dedicated providers,” she said.
So far in 2013, the crisis nursery has coordinated 60 days of placement. Picka said she recently got a call from a parent who used the crisis nursery, calling them “angels.”
Picka said some parents don’t call afterwards, and was clearly touched by this simple gesture.
“That was kinda nice,” she said.