Crisis Nursery Support A Solid Step To Prevent Child Abuse

Recent deaths, assaults and reports of abuse of area children leave us asking what can be done to prevent these tragedies.

One Great Falls-based project, organized with help from the Kiwanis Club of Great Falls, called Toby’s House, is working to help provide an answer. Toby’s House is a proposed crisis nursery in Great Falls.

The Electric City has shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse, the YWCA Mercy Home, and it has a Children’s Receiving Home for kids removed by the state from dangerous living situations.

Backers of Toby’s House say a crisis nursery would fill an important niche.

“It’s something completely different from the other two,” said Jo-Viviane Jones, family health services division manager for the Cascade-Great Falls City-County Health Department.

She said the crisis nursery would provide up to 72 hours of emergency and respite relief for adults in various situations — a parent suffering extreme stress, a mother going to a job interview, or an adult raising three children who “just can’t handle it anymore.” Infants and toddlers are particularly susceptible to physical assaults and parental neglect.

Toby’s House would give parents in crisis a chance to cool off and perhaps head off a tragedy. Jones said it would apply to grandchildren and fathers raising youngsters, and to other caregivers.

“It is filling a gap,” she said.

The idea for Toby’s House originated after of the death of October Perez, 2, who was brutally killed by her mother’s live-in boyfriend in 2011.

At a seminar, Jones talked to an expert who suggested she visit Spokane, which started a crisis nursery four decades ago after the deaths of several young children. The Early Childhood Coalition based in Great Falls sent Jones to Spokane to see how it works.

“I came back and said, ‘We need something like this in Great Falls,’” Jones said. The program will aim to combat ​depression, social isolation, homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and poor parenting skills by giving a break to adults who may not have friends or relatives available to help babysit.

This will not eliminate child abuse in Great Falls. It would be a welcome addition to the tool box in the battle to stop child abuse.

We urge community members to support the project with a donation, moral support or volunteer assistance. To donate with a credit card, go online to: Organizers hope to get a fundraising effort formally off the ground later in the summer.

These are not simple problems to solve. But these difficulties are most important to a society that must work hard on behalf of the youngest among us. Hats off to the Great Falls Kiwanis Club, the Dandelion Foundation, the Early Childhood Coalition and the project’s other supporters and donors.

A crisis nursery sounds like an excellent idea to us.

— Tribune editorial board