Crisis child care returns to Whidbey

For approximately three years, Whidbey Island hasn’t had a crisis nursery available to families in emergency situations.

That need will soon be filled when Harbor Haven opens a crisis and respite childcare service around the first of the year. The childcare center will be located on South Main Street next to the Tyee restaurant.

The new center will provide short-term childcare for up to six children at one time with space to grow.

Known as Harbor Haven Crisis and Respite Childcare, the center provides a safe place parents can drop off their children while taking care of emergencies, such as parents dealing with a loved one in the hospital or having to make an important court date.

Harbor Haven can be available for parents who are stressed out and need a couple of hours away from their children. It provides a preventative measure that allows parents a chance to step back before situations escalate into abusive actions.

“We’d rather have the opportunity to give them a break rather than seeing them break,” said Cindy McDougall, president of the Harbor Haven board.

She said that some of the parents seeking help often have children with developmental disabilities. Tending to those children’s needs can pile a lot of stress on parents.

Karen Grossman, child abuse prevention coordinator for Island County, said the Harbor Haven center fills a critical need for Whidbey Island and the community has to have the capacity to help these families.

There used to be two crisis nurseries on Whidbey Island. Then around late 2004, they both closed. The two centers, located in Oak Harbor and Clinton, lost their funding source, the now-defunct Child Abuse Prevention Foundation.

Grossman said she works with a lot of families who are isolated in the community and they don’t have the family or friends to support them through tough times. She said many of these parents are stressed out with emotional and financial problems.

In the years since their last centers closed, Harbor Haven has been working to find a new center. To help on the fundraising end, Harbor Haven operates New Beginnings Thrift Store located on North Main Street in Coupeville.

Harbor Haven is still going through the permitting process for the childcare center. The Coupeville Planning Commission signed off on a conditional use permit during a recent meeting. That permit heads to the Town Council for approval next month. Harbor Haven also has to go before the Design Review Board.

McDougall said Coupeville was chosen because it is centrally located and people come to Coupeville for services.

Grossman said she would ultimately like to see such nurseries on the two ends of the island as well.

Before Harbor Haven’s childcare center can open, some upgrades have to be made to the building, such as installing a handicap-accessible ramp and fence along with improving the plumbing.

McDougall said that it will take approximately $10,000 to get the work done.

She is contacting local groups for help, either by donating money or providing time and materials.

“Our whole goal is to support families, but we need the community’s support to do that,” McDougall said.

To make a donation to Harbor Haven or for more information, contact McDougall at 678-3583.

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