With CHI St. Anthony Hospital’s support, relief nursery supports families

By CHI St. Anthony Hospital staff

Jenna Caswell has come a long way in three years.

“I was part of the drug life, I was part of the street life, my kids were there with me until they got taken by the state of Oregon,” she said.

Jenna has been clean and sober for three years and has regained custody of her kids. She says she couldn’t have done it without support and services from the team at Pioneer Relief Nursery (PRN). “They’ve helped us with clothing, they’ve helped me with parenting support,” Jenna said. PRN has helped her obtain safe housing through the state, and much more.

Pioneer Relief Nursery is a child abuse and neglect prevention program supported with community benefit funding by CHI St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton. St. Anthony donates and maintains the building and supports many of the programs including the clothes closet and diaper drives.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” said Harry Geller, St. Anthony’s president. “It’s gratifying that we can be involved in a project that builds stronger families, keeps families together.”

Jenna’s four-year-old son Cody attends the PRN pre-school. “When he got here, he didn’t talk much,” said Jenna. That’s common for children who have experienced trauma, said PRN executive director Libby Hoffman. Now Cody is a lively, talkative child getting ready for kindergarten. He loves his teachers and looks forward to seeing them on their home visits.

Most families are referred to PRN through substance abuse treatment programs. Hoffman said most PRN families live below the poverty line. The programs address risk factors that cause stress for parents and children, which can lead to child abuse and neglect. The program’s prevention efforts have been very successful.

Teachers at PRN focus on helping children regulate their emotions both in and out of the classroom. They also work on helping parents bond with their children. The goal is to set up everyone for success: kids and parents, together.

Hoffman says just knowing they have someone in their corner can give parents hope where none existed before.

Jenna Caswell is a prime example of that newly created hope. Her face lights up when she talks about her home, her job, and her children’s happiness. She is supporting her family, and that’s a big deal.

“It feels great to be where I’m at, because I’ve done this with my support team.”