Bethany Christian Services’ Safe Families for Children helps families and children in crisis by providing a network of volunteer host families who help parents who need temporary care for their children as they face unmanageable or critical circumstances. Summer’s family has hosted several children through Safe Families:
Taking children of strangers into our home was weird, awkward, interruptive, and then become strangely natural to love these kids who are just kids: fun loving, rambunctious, funny, tantrum throwing, snack loving.
It occurred to my husband and I that the best way to help these families, to help these kids, was to love their parents; to help their parents feel supported, surrounded, cared for, seen and understood; to offer friendship. In a way, this was scarier to me than taking kids into our home. It can be awkward to have another adult over supper, one whose life experiences had been very different than my own. I was insecure: would I say something dumb or offensive? What questions do I ask? How do I build a friendship with this young Native American woman, single mother of four, homeless and sleeping on couches of friends and acquaintances?
Our third Safe Families placement was a 5-year-old girl and it became our goal to not only care for her but to pursue her mom as well. While hosting her daughter, I took time to talk to her on the phone, to ask her questions and get to know her. We had her over for supper so she could get to know us and visit her daughter in her current surroundings. After her daughter went back to live with her, I continued to offer friendship and care through text and calls. I took her out to lunch at McDonalds and learned more of her story.
When she found an apartment, I asked her for a list of things she would need to furnish it and brought the needs to my church. I was floored with the immediate offers of practical gifts by which we entirely furnished and stocked an apartment for her and her four children. I invited her to a “fun night” of pizza and games in our church gym, where she met other couples with kids from our church and had the opportunity to feel loved by them as well.
She told me once that she has felt more loved by our family than she has ever felt through her own. My point is this: remain open to the possibilities, open to an unlikely friendship.
Last year, 71 children were provided safe care through the Safe Families for Children program. At the end of the crisis that precipitated the hosting arrangement, 93% of the children return to their families. A gift of $500 to Sioux Empire United Way will provide Safe Families for Children with the screening process to approve and equip a new host family to open their home to vulnerable children for years to come.