Crisis nurseries provide care, counseling for children

Posted at 9:58 PM, Jun 16, 2014

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — A father from Logan appeared in court on Monday to face accusations that he chained his 6-year-old-son to a bed.

Sammie Hodges is facing four counts of child abuse after Logan Police found his son shackled to the bed frame by his ankle.

It’s a familiar and avoidable story to staff at the Family Support Center of Salt Lake County.

“Growing up feeling like being chained to your bed is normal is going to carry long-term effects,” said Miriah Griffith, Development Director for the facility.

Griffith helps run the county’s three crisis nurseries, a safe haven for parents who need help with their kids.

“That’s 24/7 free care for children ages 0-11. There is no income limit. There is no limit on reasons why you can use it or how often you can use it,” Griffith said.

On average, approximately 11,000 children and 5,000 adults take advantage of the 14 centers currently offering care and counseling around the state.

According to Griffith, the families who utilize the services range in their needs. Some children are in a potentially abusive situation and need to be removed, while others are brought in because their parents have work conflicts or medical emergencies.

“It’s a life saver. We just depend on them and they’re right there when we need them. And that’s why it’s called the crisis nursery,” said Mitchell McClam, who uses the Midvale Crisis Nursery for his two youngest kids.

But due to increased demand around the state, not ever family can get the assistance they might need.

“There were over 300 times that parents called into the crisis nurseries last year that they were at capacity. They were full. So, that’s concerning,” Griffith said.

If they’d been at capacity when Mirta Gray called for help, her life could look different today.

“I was kind of like in separation, back and forth with my now ex-husband. And we had a lot of ups and downs…” Gray said.

Five years later, she now works for a center in Salt Lake County, while caring for the two kids she used to bring here.

“It was such a blessing to have some people that would support me, that would help me in my time of need because I didn’t know where to go, where to turn to,” Gray said.

Operating costs for all the centers is approximately $1.75 million, annually. While the goal is to open more centers in the future, allocating funding is a difficult obstacle to overcome.

“Federal and state only pay for 50 percent of it. So, that leaves us with the other 50 percent to come up with on a competitive basis,” Griffith said. “I think it’s kind of one of those battles that you fight because you know you have to, but you know you’ll never really win, if that makes sense. So, there are victories in each family, but I don’t think we’ll ever be at a point when it’s no longer a problem.”