(This is the first post in a two part series about Safe Families for Children. We highlighted this ministry in our services two weeks ago. Perhaps you missed the service, or would like more information, and would like to read the short interview with County Liner, Jennifer Bergdall, who volunteers for this ministry.)
I’ve heard of Safe Families, but what is it that you do?
Safe Families for Children hosts vulnerable children and creates extended family-like supports for desperate families through a community of compassionate volunteers motivated by their faith to keep children safe and ultimately together with their families.
Founded in Chicago in 2003, Safe Families for Children (SFFC) is a multi-site volunteer movement that gives hope and support to families in distress. SFFC reframes how families are supported during a crisis. Parents voluntarily place their children in safe, loving homes where they are cared for while the parents seek to restore stability in their lives. SFFC is dedicated to family support, stabilization and, most importantly, child abuse prevention.
SFFC is a community-based movement predicated on the belief that the safety and health of children in our communities is the responsibility of all of us, and that parents are the key to providing that well-being for their children. Accordingly, SFFC focuses on strengthening and supporting parents so they can be safe families for their children. SFFC is rooted in faith-based principles of welcoming strangers into our hearts and homes.
HOST FAMILY FAQ
My family and I aren’t in a stage of our lives where we can host, but how else can we help with Safe Families?
There are many ways to volunteer other than being a host family! Family coaches and those willing to provide transportation are our two other biggest needs. In addition, we use volunteers who are willing to answer the intake line 1 day/week, prayer partners, meal providers, material resource donations, moving assistance, mentoring, childcare, and weekend respite.
As a host family, do we have any say in what children we host?
Absolutely! Upon your approval you will determine the profile of children that you are comfortable hosting in your home. For example, you may only be able to host school aged children because you work full time, or you only feel comfortable hosting babies. You may also decide that you only have room for 1 child, or you have the capacity to bring in up to 3 children. While this is determined upon approval, you are always free to take placements outside of what you previously decided if you’d like!
What if we are hosting a child and have plans to go on a family vacation, or something else comes up? Or if we are just not getting along well with the child?
You have several options. If the placing parents agree, and you are ok with it, you may take the child with you. If you would rather not, we have families that primarily do respite for host families, so it would be possible to place the child with another family while you are on vacation. If the placement just isn’t working out, the children can be switched to a different host family, though we make every effort to not have to move children around a lot.
Are we allowed to say no to a placement?
Yes of course! You are never bound to any placement. When there is a need for a child/children to be placed, the intake coordinator will send out an email and text to all host families with the ages and gender of the children as well as how long the placement is expected to last. After praying about it and discussing it with your family, if you feel it is a good fit for you, you simply respond to the email and let the intake coordinator know you would like the placement. Occasionally with emergency situations, the coordinator will make phone calls to see if you are available, but typically you would just respond to the email if you want the placement.
What is the difference between foster care and Safe Families?
One of the main goals of Safe Families is to deflect children from entering the foster care system by providing vulnerable families with the support and assistance they need before abuse or neglect occurs. We aim to prevent child abuse and neglect by giving the mom/parents time to get back on their feet and provide a stable environment for their family while their children are safe and being cared for by loving Christian families. Safe Families is a non-coercive alternative to state child welfare. The host families work WITH the placing families to provide a network of support and “co-parent”.
If you have further questions, or would like to sign-up to be a host family, please contact the church office at 260-627-2482.