MILWAUKEE — More than 4,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2021 in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

A crisis nursery in Milwaukee aims to address the problem by keeping kids safe.

La Causa Crisis Nursery and Respite Center is a 12-bed shelter. It’s free to the community and is the only facility of its kind in Wisconsin. It provides a safe haven for children ages newborn to 12-years-old, should their families face homelessness, domestic violence, medical needs or other emergencies.

The nursery has been open for more than 30 years and is open 24/7/365.

Serving an average of 600 children per year, the nursery provides home-cooked meals, baths, clean beds, transportation to and from school and other services for the kids in its care. Children can stay a few hours or up to three days. 

(Spectrum News 1/Katarina Velazquez)

In addition to care in times of crisis, parents can also request respite care for their children during times of high stress.

“We think if we can reduce the stress level, the chances of something going wrong in the family — and in the situation — go way down,” said Karl Schoendorf, the director of La Causa Crisis Nursery and Respite Center.

At the nursery, kids can reduce their stress levels, too, which Schoendorf said is just as important as adults finding reprieve.

The nursery mainly serves the Milwaukee area, but is open to any families in need in surrounding counties, or even across the state. 

Edwina Ray said she has been able to find support here for years. Ray learned about La Causa when she was in a treatment program and has been bringing her now-10-year-old daughter to the center since she was just 2-years-old.  

(Spectrum News 1/Katarina Velazquez)

Ray said the center has helped fill the gap and provided support for her in hard times and in emergencies.

“At first I was nervous, because I thought I might be judged,” said Ray. 

The center said 33% of children stay with them for respite care, while 25% stay with them because they are facing homelessness. The center reported that 18% of kids in its care stay with them due to domestic violence or another crisis. The center said 95% of parents who utilize them reported decreased stress levels, and 95% of families reported that their familial relationships were strengthened because of their child’s stay.

Ray said the care her daughter has received over the years has been a big help. 

“Places like La Causa [are] very important and critical component to being part of the solution of making Milwaukee a better place,” she said. “I’m not the only person that needs outside family structure support.”