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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Safe Families for Children

Thursday, April 12, 2018

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention month, we’re highlighting partner organizations who are members of the Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Council, and work to promote great childhoods. Learn more about Safe Families for Children, a program of Bethany Christian Services, below.

Bethany Christian Services and Safe Families for Children

Imagine facing homelessness and joblessness without a healthy support system to lean on. This was the reality for a family of five in Michigan. In October 2017, while facing homelessness and joblessness, and working toward a GED, this particular family turned to Safe Families for Children for help.

Safe Families for Children (SFFC) is a program of Bethany Christian Services. The goal of SFFC is to keep children safe during a family crisis in order to prevent child abuse and/or neglect. SFFC professionally surrounds families with a volunteer-driven, caring and compassionate faith community to keep families intact and reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system.

Safe Families for Children was founded in Chicago in 2003 when Executive Director Dave Anderson was approached by a woman in crisis asking him to temporarily care for her children before the state removed them from her care. This mother could be a responsible mother, but was in trouble at the time, and without any support system, she simply needed a safe place for her children to stay until she could step out of crisis and get back on her feet.

The mission of Bethany Christian Services is to protect and enhance the lives of vulnerable children and families. Safe Families for Children is an innovative approach that can accomplish this mission. Because of this, Bethany Christian Services partnered with SFFC, and in 2011, Tim Nolan, former National Director of Safe Families for Children, brought the program to Holland. There are now six SFFC chapters in Michigan that provide services to Ottawa, Kent, Kalamazoo, Charlevoix, Emmett, Grand Traverse, Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb Counties.

The family of five, although facing crisis, was motivated to have more for their children and themselves. This is when they turned to SFFC.

“We had to call Katie because we were at our breaking point. Rent didn’t fluctuate with income anymore, and it eventually balanced out at zero,” the family stated.

From the very beginning, SFFC felt hope for this family and knew there could be great success for the couple and their three kids. The parents knew that the trauma and difficult homes they grew up in would not be the life ahead for their children. With support from Safe Families for Children, they were hopeful they could achieve a different future for their family.  

The three girls were split between two volunteer homes. The youngest, a sweet and loving baby, was played with and well loved by many family members and visitors in her host home. The older two girls joined a family of six; while adding a bit more chaos to the already busy household, there were many moments of good sibling play and fun. All three girls had the safe space they needed to grow, play, and truly be kids for a bit, all while giving their parents the opportunity to get back on their feet in a difficult time.

“Using the Safe Families program was a sad motivation. It made us work hard to get the girls back faster,” the parents said.

The couple was still in school, job hunting and waking up early to catch the first bus to temporary agencies while they waited for their jobs to begin in thirty days. They were doing absolutely everything they could to get back up on their feet—and quickly. While “praying that things would get easier,” it was difficult to sleep because this was the first time the girls were outside of their own care. The couple did not give up; they knew this time would be beneficial long-term for their family and were ready to take any steps needed to get there.

Throughout the hosting, there were many visits that brought the family of five back together and portrayed that these parents’ love for their kids was not going anywhere. Though it took some time to find the right steps to take for their family, both parents eventually found first-shift jobs with opportunities for advancement, completed classes towards a GED and are graduating in May, have taken drivers education classes to acquire licenses, and found a home that the family will be able to live in for years to come.

With the help of the two Host Families and multiple other volunteers, the family moved in to a small furnished home with a fully stocked pantry and comforters that the girls picked out themselves. Best of all, the home is in a good neighborhood located right by school.

This success story, among many others, highlights the value for the community around us. Without the help of the Safe Families for Children program, this story could have ended very differently. It is the volunteer community members that create a positive ending like this one. Like many families in the world, the most difficult step may be to ask for help—but lives can be changed because of it.

Thank you for supporting SCAN and Safe Families for Children.