#LetsMakeASEEN: Jeremiah's Place

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Child care is a common concern for most Pittsburghers. When the sitter cancels or when day care is closed, who do people turn to? If you're lucky, you turn to extended family. But what do you do if that's not possible?

Jeremiah's Place has been open only since April, but it has already changed lives.

It's in the Kingsley Center in Larimer and provides no-cost, 24-hour, emergency child care for children ages 6 and under.

"Our very first call was a woman who was going on a job interview. She had been working three part-time jobs and had already canceled her interview once due to lack of child care," said executive director LouAnn Ross. "Because she was able to bring her children to us, she has a full-time job which has changed the trajectory of her life, and consequently her children's."

One abused mother called needing child care after fleeing in the middle of the night. Another needed someone to watch her children because she had to report to prison and her mother couldn't take them until later that day. A mother called the crisis center when she went into labor, having nowhere for her children to stay while at the hospital.

"No matter what situation our families are in, we provide a safe, clean, loving space for their children, free of judgment -- a place of dignity," added Ms. Ross. "I grew up with my extended family just down the street, but times have changed, and a lot of people don't have that kind of support."

Jeremiah's Place was co-founded by pediatrician Dr. Lynne Williams, ob-gyn Tammy Murdock and child advocate Eileen Sharbaugh, who all saw a need for crisis day care. The center is named after a 2-year-old boy to whom Dr. Williams' mother is foster mother.

In a local survey of families in the East End, 60 percent said they had trouble finding child care. Of these, 14 percent of caregivers had left their children in a high-risk situation when they needed emergency care. Because of this, 10 percent of those children suffered an injury or experienced behavioral problems.

The nonprofit that is licensed by the Department of Public Welfare allows children to stay up to three consecutive days. There is no family income requirement to use the center.

Creative play and healthy eating are focuses of Jeremiah's Place. There is no "time-out," and children are given backpacks when they leave filled with books, a handmade bear, a blanket, toothpaste and a toothbrush, as well as their own pair of pajamas. Nearly everything has been donated, from the children's clothing available to the colorful mural painted on the wall.

To learn more about Jeremiah's Place, to apply to volunteer or to donate, visit www.jeremiahsplace.org.

Together, #LetsMakeASeen!

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