GREAT FALLS — A new crisis nursery called Toby’s House is opening its doors to help children in Cascade County, and aims to prevent child abuse.
In 2011, October Perez, known as “Toby,” was only two years old when she passed away after suffering from abuse from her mother’s boyfriend. Now, almost a decade later, Toby’s House Crisis Nursery is working to help other children like Toby.
“Sometimes families struggle to take care of their children, sometimes parents may need to decide if they’re going to work or if they’re going to stay home with their child, sometimes there’s medical appointments and a parent may not have care for their children, or sometimes they just don’t have a safe place for their child at the moment,” said Susie Zeak, executive director of Toby’s House. “Bring them to us, we will love them, we will care for them, we will feed them, we will love them like they are our own.”
The crisis nursery provides short-term care for children voluntarily brought there by a parent or legal guardian. There are many reasons why people utilize a crisis nursery for temporary child care or respite, including:
- There is not a safe place for a child to stay while resolving personal issues
- Someone is not capable of taking care of their child as they would like
- An important appointment but no one safe to leave a child with
- When stress and life’s problems are becoming too much to tolerate and could result in taking it out on a child or when someone feels they are losing control
- Medical emergencies where a care-giver needs immediate assistance with temporary childcare
- Mental health, substance abuse crisis
- Foster care parent respite
The services provided by Toby’s House Crisis Nursery are free and require no qualifications to use.
Before the opening of Toby’s House, Montana was one of only 11 states in the country with no children’s crisis nursery. Child abuse and neglect rates in Cascade County have also increased in the last seven years.
In early October 2020, Toby’s House announced delays for their opening due to insufficient funding, as they are a non-profit organization funded solely on donations and grants. That’s when Embark Credit Union decided to step in and help with a $5,000 donation.
“At the end of 2020 we had a couple of significant needs in our community, Toby’s House Crisis Nursery is one that has been trying to get up and running, and they had some financial struggles and we saw the opportunity to step in and help out so we did,” said Erin Townsend, Vice President of Member Services at Embark Credit Union.
Along with their contribution to Toby’s House, Embark Credit Union was also able to make an additional $5,000 donation to United Way of Cascade County, in an effort to help those suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toby’s House Crisis Nursery is located at 421 5th Street North in Great Falls. The nursery’s hours of operation will vary until their staff is completely hired and trained for overnight care.