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New 'nurturing center' will assist families at risk for abuse, neglect

A Medford relief nursery and preschool that will assist families at risk for child abuse and neglect is slated to open in April.

Directors are working to staff the Family Nurturing Center, located at 945 S. Riverside Ave., in time to open next month. Teachers with experience in early childhood development and social work are needed, said executive director Mary-Curtis Gramley.

The center will start off serving 14 high-risk families referred by various community organizations, Gramley said. Pending grants could increase the number to 20, she said. Teachers will work closely with families, making home visits, educating parents and offering referrals for other social services.

The families we will be serving have multiple needs and many risks, Gramley said.

The center's therapeutic preschool will treat children up to — years old with emotional, social and behavioral issues, Gramley said. Children as old as 4 may be accepted into the program depending on funding. Infant and respite child care also will be offered.

— The center is the ninth relief nursery in Oregon, Gramley said. The Oregon Legislature last year approved &

36;375,000 in funding over the next two years for Medford's program. The Family Nurturing Center earns 25 percent of its overall budget through grants and donations, including contributions from the Jackson County Junior League, Gramley said.

While working to secure funding, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said the relief nursery was especially important because of the county's new drug court. The court deals primarily with methamphetamine addicts.

The relief nursery program started about 15 years ago in Eugene to provide parents a place to leave their children for several hours when they needed time to themselves. Other communities soon opened relief nurseries with federal grant funding. When the state stepped in, the program expanded to provide a host of services aimed at reducing conflicts and maintaining the family unit.

For more information on the Family Nurturing Center, call 789-3156.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail New ?nurturing center? will assist families at risk for abuse, neglect"slemon@mailtribune.com.