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Need drives the expansion of Crisis Nursery 

Sarah Cincotta woke up in the hospital earlier this year after a 20-hour seizure, a result of her multiple sclerosis.

"When I woke up, I didn't even have the ability to say my name," she says.

Cincotta was reassured, however, that her daughter, Pearl, who is just over 2 years old now, was not alone during her mother's medical emergency.

Pearl was cared for at the Crisis Nursery in the City of Rochester. Now in its second year, the nursery helps parents who are experiencing a major life crisis and require temporary, though urgent, professional child care.

The nursery operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Two full-time employees are on duty at all times and are supported by volunteers.

"It isn't a situation like I lost my day care placement or I don't have a babysitter," says Meghan Palumbo, a spokesperson for the Center for Youth, the agency that operates the Crisis Nursery. "This might be a situation involving domestic violence; the mother has left the home and she can leave her children here while she pursues other resources."

From January to September 2015, the Crisis Nursery cared for 830 children from newborn to age 14. The number includes some duplicates, though, because the parents' problems were so serious that resolving the child care issue took more than a day or two, Palumbo says.

The nursery's caseload has nearly doubled from a year ago. The need is so great, Palumbo says, that the Center for Youth is looking to open a second nursery in the city.

The most common reasons for parents to use the Crisis Nursery are domestic violence, homelessness, and medical emergencies.

"Poverty is part of the problem, but sometimes families just don't have resources," Palumbo says. Parents might need to be with a sick child in the hospital, for example, but not have anyone to care for their other children.

The Crisis Nursery is actually a house that was intentionally designed to give children the feeling that they are staying with a relative. It has a living room, kitchen, several bedrooms, and a laundry room. There are toys, games, books, videos, and other activities to engage children so they are not stressed during their stay.

The nursery also helps prevent child abuse and neglect, says Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth. It not only prevents children from being left at home alone, with strangers, or even in a car during a crisis, she says, but it provides enough help for the family to stabilize.

"It doesn't take much for someone with children to fall through and suddenly find themselves without a job, a home, or food," Spaull says.

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