Over the last few weeks as the date approached for Mike and me to begin our foster care training, we’ve had a lot of time to talk and pray about the direction that the Lord wants us to take. Helping children in crisis has been heavy on our hearts for quite some time. How can we help other children while not having it put a strain on our own? Being out of the home for 40+ hours over the next few weeks to complete foster care training seems very daunting- and at the same time, we still have all of the paperwork for the Safe Families For Children program.
What is Safe Families For Children? Safe Families is a program that aims to keep children out of the state foster care system by supporting families in crisis. The Safe Families program helps train and equip Christian families to step into the gap for a few weeks or a few months when the need arises.
Taken from the Safe Families For Children website:
“When crisis strikes, many of us rely on relatives and our church family for support. But for some parents, there isn’t a safety net. Often problems such as drug addiction, domestic abuse, incarceration, or illness can be debilitating, making it impossible for parents to care for their children. With the changing economy many more families are experiencing financial crisis, unemployment, and homelessness. During such crisis, children are especially at-risk for neglect or abuse as their parents struggle to cope with crushing circumstances and emotions.
State welfare emergency hotlines throughout the nation reportedly receive over 5 million calls each year of suspected child abuse or neglect. Of those calls, about one million meet the criteria for state intervention. What happens to the remaining four million families that don’t qualify for help?
Overburdened by need and restrained by resources, law and policy most state welfare agencies are allowed to rescue only children who have suffered blatant abuse or neglect. Overwhelmed and underfunded, the state is ill-equipped to deal with a problem of this magnitude.
Without assistance, many of these families will find the issues in their homes escalating to episodes of abuse and/or neglect with long lasting consequences for not only the child, but also for our communities as well.
Safe Families for Children strives to meet three objectives:
- Child Welfare Deflection: Safe Families provides a safe alternative to child welfare custody, thus significantly reducing the number of children entering the child welfare system.
- Child Abuse Prevention: Providing an overwhelmed and resource limited parent with a safe, temporary place for their child without threat of losing custody. By offering support, the goal is to avert potential abuse/neglect episodes.
- Family Support and Stabilization: Many parents struggle because of limited social support and unavailable extended family. Many Safe Families Volunteers become the extended family that a parent never had.
Hallmarks of a Safe Family Model:
- Biological Parents maintain full custody
- Volunteer families are extensively screened and supported
- Six-week average length of stay (ranging from two days to a year)
- Average age of child in SFFC care is 4.5
- Close working relationships between Safe Families, the local church, and the referring organization
- Commitment to reunite the family as soon as possible”
So far, over 8,600 hosting arrangements have been made and the program is active in 25 states in the U.S.
Mike and I have decided to be a host family for Safe Families For Children. We are turning in our paperwork this week to have background checks completed and will make an appointment with Bethany Christian Services to have a home visit to make sure that we are capable of taking in children. We will also have to do 5 hours of training at home on our computer.
*Update 2014: The doors did not open for us to do Safe Families For Children. Because we were living at a Christian camp at the time I had written this blog post, we needed to receive permission from leadership at the camp to open our doors to hurting children. Even though we had passed the home inspection and were in the final stages of becoming a host family, unfortunately, we did not get permission from the camp and were told, ‘We will not be operating a boarding house’. A few months after that let-down of a conversation, we moved from camp and started life again in Tennessee where the Lord has opened doors for us to volunteer with refugee families through Bridge Refugee Services. I still fully believe in and support the Safe Families For Children program and wholeheartedly recommend it for Christians contemplating helping children in crisis.*