By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Finding childcare in a crisis, emergency or at the last minute can be a huge challenge. That’s why Jeremiah’s Place opened — Pittsburgh’s only crisis nursery.

Kristine Sorensen talks with Jeremiah’s Place Executive Director Lisa Perry about what the center offers and the kinds of reason a parent or caregiver can use their free service. Here’s their edited conversation.

Kristine Sorensen: What is Jeremiah’s Place?

Lisa Perry: We are a 24-hour crisis nursery, Pittsburgh’s only crisis nursery. We serve children birth to six years old when their parent or legal guardian is experiencing some sort of emergency and have a short-term need for additional childcare supports.

We’re located in the Kingsley Association on the east side of Pittsburgh. While we are a free service, we do require that families are registered with us in order to use our service.

We have three components of our work. Certainly our most important piece is keeping children safe, and so our center is beautiful and vibrant, with wonderful staff who are there to help make that transition easier for children. When children come to Jeremiah’s Place, we provide everything that they would need while they’re in our care — food, clothing, diapers, wipes, formula, anything that they would need.

And when a child visits us for the very first time, they leave home with a beautiful comfort backpack, filled with all kinds of goodies. It has blankets, pajamas, age-appropriate books and our wonderful teddy bear that goes home with them.

We know that children are nested in families, and so we work really hard to help strengthen them as well. During our intake process, our social workers spend a lot of time with mom or dad, trying to learn a little bit more about what they’re doing and how they’re living their lives and what other resources that they might need to help support them, and so we offer those supports as well.

And then we’re also working within the community of Pittsburgh to make sure that every family and every neighborhood knows who we are, what we do and how we can help them.

Kristine Sorensen: What are some of the reasons that a parent or caregiver might use Jeremiah’s Place?

Lisa Perry: There are a whole host of reasons, and an emergency to me is very different than emergency to you. So we take each family on an individual basis.

Some of the reasons why families use us would include things like medical and mental health emergencies. Sometimes there’s a surgery or a medical appointment that children are not allowed to attend. We have families who use us for labor and delivery and sometimes even prenatal visits.

And then there are those more extreme cases like fleeing domestic violence and homelessness, where a parent might find shelter in the city and not have space for their children. And we can watch your little ones overnight.

We can help when parents and caregivers have job interviews, job trainings and orientations and certainly when their existing childcare centers are closed for emergency situations or professional development and holidays.

Kristine Sorensen: What if a parent sometimes just feels overwhelmed?

Lisa Perry: Respite is a huge part of our work. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and sometimes you just need some additional supports, some breathing room, so that you can go back into the work of parenting and and feel confident in that.

So we do see families who just need a little bit of a break. They’re just feeling overwhelmed, and they can rest and recover and restore while their children are at Jeremiah’s Place. So we watch and see children for a whole host of reasons, but respite is one of the most important ones.

Kristine Sorensen