WEST FRANKFORT — The Night’s Shield Children’s Shelter is pursuing a new program to expand the outreach and support services it can offer the community.

The Night's Shield Crisis Nursery will meet the needs of families who experience a short-term crisis. This service will provide respite and short-term care for Illinois families, many of whom experience crisis due to lost employment, medical emergencies, violence and family dysfunction. The goal of the crisis nursery program is to reduce parental stress, enhance parenting skills and reduce the risk of child maltreatment.

“The state shifted a little. In order to maintain our mission, we are going to pursue a crisis center. Our focus will be in strengthening families and keeping them together,” Lindsey Bullman, executive director of Night’s Shield, said.

The press release said the State of Illinois has made a significant dynamic shift in its programming which has caused direct conflict with the goals, values and mission of The Night’s Shield.

"The Night's Shield was established to assist the state, but the change in direction from them makes it impossible to continue our mission with state funding," Sara Bond, president of Night's Shield board of directors, said in the release. "We established this safe haven for our children in crisis with hearts of hands of thousands of people willing to help. I'm calling on you now to help us help children in crisis because we will shoulder the entire financial burden of the program. We need the help now more than ever."

Night’s Shield opened its doors to children in crisis Aug. 12, 2009, and has served more than 1,200 children and teenagers from 47 different Illinois counties, from Chicago to Cairo. The majority of them have been from Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson and Williamson counties.

“We have a problem with substance abuse in our area. When parents have to have treatment, the children have to go somewhere safe. You can put your kid in the crisis center until you become stable. It is very short term. Parents are still the parents, we are just support for them,” Bullman said.

Bullman said Night’s Shield is piloting this program, and there are no similar programs in Southern Illinois. The closest one is in Effingham. Bullman has not found any solid funding opportunities. She plans to continue looking for and writing grants, but says they will need increased community support.

“We have operated with state funding and donations from our community supporters. Very soon we will no longer be operating with that funding, and we will fully be funding the crisis program with the help of our community partners,” Bullman said.

Organizers hope to have the crisis nursery open by the first of the year. The goal is January, but Bullman said they will have to have some seed money to get started.

“I am so excited. If we can reach the number of families I think we can, it will have a positive impact on families in our community,” Bulman said.

Bond said the shelter has come too far and helped too many children to not continue its work by upholding its founding principles and the types of services donors have supported.

“Thousands of people have made Night’s Shield what it is today through their financial contributions and many forms of volunteerism. We will not allow those noble efforts to go in vain and will continue to provide services,” Bond said.

The Night’s Shield Crisis Nursery will be a safe place for families to ask for help. To find out more about the vision of this program or ways to help, call Bullman at 618-932-6400.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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