Practicing Biblical Hospitality: Safe Families

Posted by  | Sunday, November 6, 2011  at 10:24 PM  

We live in the suburbs of Chicago, IL - home of a program called Safe Families. From the Safe Families website:  

Since 2005, Safe Families for Children has offered sanctuary to thousands of children, minimizing the risk for abuse or neglect and giving parents the time and tools they need to help their families thrive. The ultimate goal is to strengthen and support parents so they can become Safe Families for their own children. 

Safe Families for Children strives to meet three objectives:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.

Our family just joined the Safe Families movement about a month and a half ago. We received our first placement at the beginning of October. Four year old K came to stay with us because his single, pregnant mother was hospitalized with pregnancy complications and she had no one who could care for him. Her main support person, her mother, had recently passed away. She was without anyone else to support her. K spent five nights in a crisis nursery until Safe Families was mentioned to the mom as someone who could take care of her son for her. K was with us for three days before his mom was released from the hospital and he could go back home.

On Saturday, we got the call that K and mom had been in the emergency room all day and she was being admitted. K sat by himself in the emergency room lobby until someone could get to him and bring him to us. He's now back with us until mom is released from the hospital.

I love this program for so many reasons. One, it gives us a way to show Christ's love to our neighbors in a way I wouldn't be able to do without the organization. Two, it gives us a low commitment way to see how we would feel about doing foster care. Three, it gives me an opportunity to go out of my comfort zone with the relationship I am developing with K's mom. I am learning so much about her and the struggles she faces in her daily life.

The director of Safe Families spoke at our church this Sunday during a luncheon we hosted for Orphan Sunday. He shared that someone once asked him what the theology behind Safe Families was since they kids they served weren't actually "orphans" (referring to James 1:27 - pure religion to care for orphans and widows.) He said that he looks at Safe Families as a way to practice biblical hospitality - showing kindness to strangers by opening up your home to them. He started Safe Families back in 2005 because he had mothers coming to him (he works for Lydia Home Association, a ministry that includes residential programs, foster care, family services, etc) who had no support system and needed someone to take their kids for them temporarily to give them time to get back on their feet or get out of a dangerous situation. They were good parents - they didn't need DCFS to get involved. But he said his hands were tied until they became wards of the state. He then came up with the idea of Safe Families and started out with just his family. Then he asked friends to help, etc, until it bloomed into the program it is today with 800 families set up as Safe Families. Amazing.

Safe Families has now extended to 13 different states, as well as Canada and the UK. Please look to see if they are in your area and consider joining this amazing movement. You can visit their website here.

2 comments:

Courtney said...

I have never heard of this but am going straight to the website. I can't wait to look into more!

Amy said...

I actually just heard about this on Orphan Sunday. Such an amazing idea.

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