Foster care alternative: Safe Families for Children

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

USA (MNN) — Who should care for the children of troubled families: the government or the Church?

According to the latest statistics, approximately 400,000 kids in the United States under the age of 18 aren’t living with either of their parents. While foster care prevents children from living on the streets, it also forces a wedge between children and their parent(s).

When Child Protective Services (CPS) removes a child from the home, that child becomes a “ward” of the state and is placed in foster care. Parents then have to wage battles with the court system to bring their children home.

But, not all situations have to follow this path. Bethany Christian Services is teaming up with churches nationwide to provide an alternative to foster care.

Helping families avoid foster care

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services)

All parents, whether single or married, encounter crisis at some point — that’s just how life goes. But for single parents or those in poverty, one crisis can quickly tip the scales toward disaster.

For example: sudden unemployment or incarceration can unexpectedly remove or lessen income, which can lead to missed rent payments or the loss of transportation, which snowballs into the inability to feed children or bring them to school, etc.

The Safe Families for Children (SFFC) program helps prevent this crisis snowball before it begins.

SFFC was developed by Dr. David Anderson of the LYDIA Home Association. When Dr. Anderson introduced it to Bethany President and CEO Bill Blacquiere, he knew it was a ministry they needed to be involved in.

“It just seems like this is what the Christian community should be doing,” Blacquiere states. “When he explained to me the program, it made a whole lot of sense for several reasons.”

Through the SFFC program, Bethany connects with individuals affected by a “trigger crisis” — an event threatening to destabilize the family. Trigger crises can include sudden unemployment or loss of housing, financial difficulties, postpartum depression, domestic violence, or more.

Blacquiere says single mothers are usually the ones affected most by a trigger crisis. That’s when Bethany connects the struggling mother with a Christian host family who can provide safe but temporary care.

(Image courtesy Bethany)

(Image courtesy Bethany)

“She signs a voluntary agreement with a host family that says, ‘Will you please care for my child, or children, for up to 30 days?'” explains Blacquiere.

During that period of time, the needs of vulnerable kids are met by a Christian host family while their mom works with Bethany and a local church to find a stable solution to the trigger crisis. Families hosting children in-need play a critical role in the Safe Families for Children program.

“They’re taking the child to church, to Sunday school, all those things; and they’re also sharing what they believe with the parent,” says Blacquiere.

“We have many, many cases where [parents have] committed their life to the Lord because of what this host family has shared with them and what they have done.”

SFFC and you

You might not be called to be a host family, but there’s still a role for you to play, Blacquiere says. You could help by providing food or clothing, or even transportation. Maybe you know of a business looking to hire.

Find ways to get involved here.

“It’s just a very practical way for the church community to help people and to become known for what they’re doing.”