Around the country, there are parents in need. Parents who are without relatives or community support and are desperate for short-term help and assistance while they get back on their feet. They are in crisis, and need someone to help watch over and shelter their children to avoid possibly losing them forever to a government run foster care system.
This is where the Safe Families for Children program comes in. Founded in 2002 in Chicago, this non-profit organization focuses on what founder Dr. David Anderson calls “co-parenting,” in which volunteers take care of children until their parents are able to care for them again.
In 2010, Katie Couric met and interviewed families whose lives had been changed through the groundbreaking program. She profiled them for for CBS Evening News.
Sisters Lawrie (10 at the time of filming) and Isabel (5) had been victims of the recession. After their parents lost their jobs as a professor and an accountant, mounting bills left them out of money and out on the streets. After 4 months, the police saw Isabel at a local METRA station in Chicago. Her feet were swollen and bleeding from walking all day in ill-fitting shoes. The kids were then brought into the Safe Families program.
Also profiled by Couric was 28 year-old Chanel Bryant. Ready to give up and contemplating putting her children up for adoption, this mother of two had nearly lost hope. She shared the depths of her desperation with Katie.
“It just made me want to give up. I felt as if I didn’t even deserve to live because I couldn’t take care of my kids.”
Needing help with her daughter Jessica, 5, and son Ethan, 2, after she was diagnosed with cancer, she lost her job and apartment and she didn’t know where to turn. Bryant didn’t have the traditional support structure of family or a church community, but fortunately she was referred to Safe Families for Children, and the Applegate family took them in.
Safe Families helped Bryant with her job search and, with the children being take care of, she was able to devote all of her energy to that. Within 2 weeks, she had been hired for a part-time job. The job led to an apartment, and she was again able to take care of her kids.
“They saved my life,” Bryant said, “They were angels sent to me out of nowhere.”
Since the broadcast aired, the Safe Families program has grown exponentially. From eight cities in 2010, it is now serving families in 27 states. And this year there is new legislation to allow even more chapters currently working its way through legislatures in nine states. With hundreds of churches on board now and over 11,000 volunteers, nearly 5,000 children were cared for by families in their communities in 2014 alone.
Government can’t love a child, but host families can. And thanks to all those working with this program, thousands of families have been positively impacted and reunited instead of torn apart.
You can learn more about Safe Families here.