Many of us turn to our family or church for support in times of crisis, but for some parents, a dependable safety net just isn’t there. Problems like addiction, domestic abuse, homelessness, illness, incarceration, and unemployment can hit anyone of us at any time. During crises’ like this children are often at risk. If the situation is bad enough, many of these kids can end up in America’s foster care system which, in many states, is a seriously flawed program.
Instead of waiting for the government to fix a failing system, the private sector, volunteers from our own communities, can step up and help these families in times of crisis.
Safe Families for Children was founded for that very reason. Safe Families uses “biblical principles along with training from child care professionals” to provide a temporary home for children in need.
Janet Cockrum, organizer of Safe Families in Knoxville, Tennessee said, “One of the biggest problems is housing for families, particularly young moms with children,” and that “there just isn’t enough housing for those moms and so many of them don’t have a support system.” Safe Families is that support system.
With an average stay of just six weeks, the turn around from Safe Families is much quicker than the more than 700 days many children languish in the foster care system.
According to Safe Families, “state welfare emergency hotlines throughout the nation reportedly receive over 5 million calls each year of suspected child abuse or neglect,” but only one million of those will meet the criteria for intervention from the state.
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 makes sure that the biological parents of each of the children maintain full custody and commits to reuniting the family as soon as possible. For some of these families that may only be a few days, or a couple weeks, but they have helped children for as much as one year.
A new chapter has just opened in southwest Florida, and host parent Megan Rose says that “it’s crucial to help a family in crisis.” That “there are always people who need help” and they don’t have to do it alone.
Outreach Coordinator Tammy Bauer notes that if they “can get the children out of the home and let the parents get back on their feet, the neglect and abuse is completely avoided.” With only temporary guardianship and the right to make decisions in medical care, the goal of Safe Families is to keep these vulnerable kids out of foster care.
Miley Cobb, a mother who was helped by the Safe Families program in Florida, said that it was tough not to have her son around, but “they helped me pick my self up and move on.” When she was ready, Cobb and her son Brett were reunited.
Rose says that in the end “it’s all about families helping families.” For those who don’t have a support network, Safe Families “wants to be that extended family.”
Learn more about our Safe Families legislation here.