M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

To say parenting is a challenge would be an understatement. However, there can be times when the challenges facing families escalate to levels of crisis:

  • A parent struggling with financial concerns while trying to care for a toddler who will not sleep may find themselves at the end of their rope after days of exhaustion.
  • A former member of the military suffering from PTSD may struggle to cope with the intense noise levels generated by their little one.
  • A parent who faces mounting stress and challenges at work may struggle to control their frustration when their 5- or 6-year-old breaks a vase while playing in the home.

No parent ever wants to harm their child. Parents facing these challenges with a support network around them may be able to ask for help, but some may be on their own with nowhere to turn when things feel out of control. Unfortunately, a wide variety of circumstances can conspire and lead to an explosive moment resulting in physical pain and emotional trauma for both the adult and the child.

These are the sort of situations that the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery was founded to prevent.

Named for a young Washington girl who died as the result of physical abuse, the Nursery offers local parents a safe location for their children to stay should families find themselves in a moment of crisis. The facility is open 24 hours a day and serves thousands of children every year.

Staff and volunteers share that they want children who visit the facility to feel as though “they’ve been on a visit to grandma’s house,” ensuring there are plenty of fun activities, quiet spaces and friendly faces to minimize any potential anxiety or fear that may present itself during time away from home. The Nursery is designed to house up to two dozen children up to the age of 7 at all times of day. The average stay is about 20 hours, but families can utilize the nursery for up to three days if need be.

In addition to a safe space for children to stay, the Nursery offers parents ongoing support to help them move from a position of crisis to a more stable and calm environment. The Nursery provides free diapers to families in need, along with parenting education classes, abuse prevention courses and assistance with placement in long-term services from other organizations.


The Murdock Trust has supported the Nursery by investing in the construction of its current facility, and our staff and trustees received a tour of the space during a recent visit to Spokane. All of our team members were struck by the loving attention volunteers and staff provide to every child in the Nursery’s care, as well as the dignity and respect with which parents are treated when they reach out for help.

Organizations like the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery are offering critical support to local families. This commitment is helping to strengthen our community. We are grateful to all of the work that you do.

P.S. The Nursery recently shared some exciting news about its future. Check out vanessabehan.org for more details on its new home.

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