By editorial board • 

New relief nursery program teaches families 'how to fish'

The origin of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” is unclear. But its empowering message has inspired a new nonprofit in McMinnville deserving the attention of the whole community.

A Family Place is scheduled for an October opening at First Baptist Church in McMinnville. Under the umbrella of Lutheran Family Services, the nonprofit joins a network of relief nurseries in the state that strengthens high-risk families while reducing child abuse and neglect.

The first relief nursery was established in Eugene in 1976. The model has been replicated throughout Oregon, and more recently began to spread across the nation with one now open in Austin, Texas. The model includes therapeutic classroom sessions and in-home visits, along with supplementary risk services such as drug and alcohol recovery support and crisis response. 

The relief nursery in Eugene quotes mystery writer P.D. James on its website: “What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give.” We often hear blame directed at the parents, but frequently, the lack of parenting skills is passed down generation to generation. Relief nurseries work under the belief that good parenting is a community objective, because in the end, it’s the community that suffers the consequences or celebrates the successes. 

A number of risks can lead to poor outcomes for families. Among them are child welfare and foster care involvement, mental and physical health, poverty and family violence. Some risks are carried from past generations, while others result from a lack of current parenting education. At intake, families that participate in relief nursery programs are likely to be involved in a web of many risk factors. But after just six months in a program, reports show the average number of risks for a family drops by about 20 percent. The percentage increases for families involved in relief nurseries for a year.

Relief nursery programs cost far less per family than the cost to care for a youth through foster care or juvenile delinquent programs. That’s why the public-private partnerships funding relief nurseries are sound investments.

Our society has a long history of helping high risk families with financial and health aid — feeding them for a day, if you will. A Family Place hopes to teach those families the skills and know-how that help create better lives for their children. 

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