There’s no doubt that law enforcement and social welfare agencies are on the front line of dealing with child abuse.  But what can the rest of us do?

Because April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, that’s a good question.

The Junior League of Springfield came up a great answer five years ago: Build a “crisis nursery” in Greene County, Missouri to give kids in troubled homes a place to go when child abuse is threatened or suspected or when the safety of the home is otherwise at risk.

Reacting to data that showed, in the mid-2000s, that documented child abuse was getting worse, not better, in Greene County, JLS did what Leagues do when faced with a need for a major initiative that also requires infrastructure – members raised money, cultivated community partnerships and made things happen.

Fund-raising included traditional tools – including the revenues from the League’s Sassafras! and Women Who Can Dish It Out cookbooks, its Plaid Door Resale Boutique, and its Celebrate the Season, Charity Ball, and Charity Horse Show events.  But that wasn’t enough, and JLS solicited funds from city, state, and federal governments, private donations and grants.  In the end, the League raised more than $ 4 million through cash and in-kind donations.

JLS also partnered with Burrell Behavioral Health, City of Springfield, CoxHealth, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Missouri State University, St. John’s Health System, Springfield-Greene County Park Board, and United Way of the Ozarks.

The result, in June 2007, was the grand opening of Isabel’s House, the Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks.

Isabel’s House is a 20-bed residential facility that serves children aged birth to 12.  Admission to Isabel’s House is voluntary and confidential – and free.  The average stay at Isabel’s House ranges from three days with a maximum stay of 30 days.

Children served by the facility come from families with a wide range of problems.  For some, it’s the potential for a parent about to physically harm them.  Some are caught up in an atmosphere of domestic violence.  For others, it’s because their family has lost its home and needs time to find a new one.  Some have a single parent who has lost utilities and has no hot water or heat.  Some have parents are seeking or receiving drug or alcohol rehabilitation.  Others have parents who are hospitalized due to illness or accident.

But Isabel’s House is there to help…because the Junior League of Springfield saw the problem, and decided to do something about it.