“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it”
“Why do we wait until bad things happen to children before we step in to help?” Child welfare systems are designed to react AFTER something bad happens to a child. Such interventions can be necessary in cases of abuse and neglect, but why in the world don’t we help BEFORE bad things happen to children?
Safe Families is a movement of hospitality and compassion, whereby safe, loving families voluntarily host children for short periods of time, to be a blessing to the birth parents as they work to recover from various levels of crisis or dysfunction.
Safe Families become approved after completing training, background checks, and a home assessment. The entire process is done at your own pace, but can be completed within a few weeks. Approved Safe Families then create their own profile, selecting the demographics of children they are equipped to host. Demographics include quantity of children (e.g. one child or sibling groups), age ranges, gender, and so forth. Then when children within those demographics need a family to welcome them, the Safe Family is contacted and given the opportunity to affirm or decline their current availability to host.
For some families who are caught in various levels of stress and crisis, what they really need is for someone to take care of their children for a few days, weeks or months. This short term hospitality helps the family step back from the brink of disaster (circumstances that often lead to abuse and neglect), and gives the birth parents an opportunity to recover from their crisis. Examples of crisis encountered by parents who lack a support network include: surgery, homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse treatment, and many others.
Safe Families may sound too good to be true, with birth parents voluntarily asking others to care for their kids, and safe families voluntarily taking care of children based purely on compassion and not on compensation. Yet the movement is a proven blessing, with almost 10,000 child placements in 65 cities and 3 countries. And all of those compassionate child placements have occurred over the past decade without a single instance of abuse or neglect.
The biggest change agent in the Safe Families movement is that both sets of families, the birth family and the safe family, work together in relationship for the best interests of the children AND for the preservation of the birth family. Transformation occurs in voluntary relationships with common goals, while avoiding coercion, animosity, and contrasting goals.
Compassionate families can become an approved Safe Family, or provide support to families who do. Support opportunities are vast and varied, including basically anything that a family needs to thrive. Support can look like meals, home repairs, babysitting and lawn care, or like sharing a crib, a car seat, or providing diapers.
To become a Safe Family or to learn about providing support to a Safe Family, here are simple next steps:
- Attend a Safe Families Information Session at a local church.
- Complete Safe Families training, a combination of online and classroom.
- Connect with a Family Coach to complete background checks and a home assessment.
- Complete your family profile, indicating the demographics of children you feel equipped to host.
- Answer your phone, email or text message that states “we have a child who needs short-term hospitality starting at 5pm tomorrow”.
- Pray, discuss, and decide whether you are to host that child.
- Prepare another place setting at your dinner table!