We’re a host family with Safe Families for Children.
Here’s a bit about how we became involved in this amazing organization. But first, the 30,000 foot view of Safe Families:
Safe Families for Children is a nonprofit organization that started in 2003 in Chicago. It was designed to address the needs of an under-served population: at-risk, in-crisis families who don’t qualify for intervention by social services. In other words, no crime of abuse or neglect had been committed to warrant removing the children from the home, but these parents (mostly single moms) were socially isolated and needed help.
The founder of Safe Families thought – and I majorly paraphrase – The government is out of resources… who better than the church to come alongside these moms and kids? So Safe Families was born. Well, sort of. It took a while, but it eventually picked up steam and now partners with churches across the country, who then generate interest in hosting and volunteer opportunities, and ultimately provide host families with support as well as tangible needs (food, supplies, transportation, etc.) while they host.
Host families offer a temporary safe place for children, freeing up the moms to breathe and do whatever it is they need to do, with the end goals being 1) to keep the children safe, 2) keep the family together, and 3) keep the kids out of the foster system.
It’s true embodiment of the phrase, “It takes a village.”
Our Journey with Safe Families
We started our journey with Safe Families in 2013. We had learned about Safe Families a year or so prior to that, as our church at the time was (and still is) a very active Safe Families partner. We attended an informational meeting to learn more about it, but didn’t take the leap quite yet. Truth is, we were riding the emotional roller coaster of secondary infertility and although I was searching for some meaning to this struggle, I wasn’t in a place mentally or emotionally to take on a ministry like Safe Families. (Or really anything that required pouring into others.)
In fact, Sam and I had already completed all the classes and training necessary to become foster parents, but hit a few roadblocks at the end and decided we weren’t ready to go all the way with it.
Looking back, I can see that was exactly what needed to happen. I was still very much in my grief, looking for answers or anything to help make sense of it all. I needed to process and walk through that grief (which took quite a long time). Had we committed to doing foster care, we wouldn’t have learned about Safe Families, which now I know is a much better fit for our family.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for foster families. I want to hug every one of them and thank them for what they do, because I know it is not easy. Foster parents love with a love that you can’t even imagine, all the while having their hearts broken over and over – then going back and doing it again. Bless you, foster parents. You’re my heroes.
The decision to finally become certified as a host family with Safe Families turned out to be pretty easy. The organization does an amazing job of making its volunteers feel valued and safe. They truly honor your family and trust that you know better than anyone else how much or how little you can give. We never felt like we were committing to any number of hostings, or to be a host family for any length of time. It’s up to each host family as to how much or how little they do. And that still rings true six years later.
Certification with Safe Families is nothing like becoming a foster parent. Safe Families for Children is not a government organization, it’s a ministry. Its model is to partner with churches and equip people to come alongside families in crisis. No extensive training is required – just a desire to help and a love for kids. Host families are interviewed, fill out a packet of paperwork, and are fingerprinted and background checked. A brief home study is done as well to ensure your place is safe for kids.
Why did we get certified?
I’m not sure what I was hoping to get out of Safe Families. Sam and I are both people who always want to help. We always have an itch to help others, to make a difference in people’s lives. And we love kids. We also didn’t mind opening our home to people. We’d had several family members and friends live with us for periods of time before we became a host family, so having people stay in our home was something we were used to and enjoyed doing.
I was also definitely still looking for a purpose behind our infertility, and to fill a desire to be “mom” to more than just my one [awesome] kiddo. And speaking of, we also wanted our son to participate in helping others in need and experiencing what it meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Ultimately, becoming a host family was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We’ve been able to love on a lot of kids over the years, but more than that it has changed our family. It has changed my heart forever.
Because anytime you help others, it’s really working on your own heart, isn’t it.