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Times of Crisis and SAFE Families

One of Bethany Christian Services' many programs that helps children is called Safe Families. When parents are going through a crisis, you can temporarily welcome their child(ren) into your home, allowing the parents to take essential steps toward stability. While the stay is short, the impact lasts forever. The goal is to help prevent the need for foster care and keep biological families together, when possible. Our blog post today is from a family in PA who recently hosted a little girl.

This week is the Bethany Walk/Run Challenge, helping to benefit programs like this in our area. We want to support Bethany’s goal to start a SAFE Families program in Delaware and keep Pennsylvania’s program going strong. Please consider signing up to race or donate here.

I have five boys, ranging in age from four to twelve, and I homeschool them. Some days, life feels chaotic and overwhelming, but other days my heart feels like it could burst from the love and joy I have for my family. I recently took a course on mandatory reporting of child abuse, and was deeply grieved by the suffering many children have endured. I felt the tug of God’s calling, and had begun to discuss foster care with my husband when a friend told me about Safe Families. We read about the organization and decided it was a good fit for our family--we were eager to be part of the work they were doing.

We had begun the process of becoming a safe family, when I had a terrible Sunday morning with the kids. I went to church feeling weary and questioning my ability to take on the extra responsibility of caring for another child. I prayed and said to God, “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I could barely handle my own kids this morning.” Immediately, I felt God responding: “You cannot do this on your own, but with Me, you can.” I came home from church encouraged and determined to finish our training to become a host family for Safe Families.

Safe Families serves a unique niche of parents who need temporary support during a time of crisis. Their goal is to keep kids out of foster care who never belonged there in the first place. Children in the Safe Families program are placed with a temporary host family with the goal of being reunited with their parents once the crisis has passed. Children are placed in Safe Families voluntarily by their parents. Admittedly, not every parent is amazing or even grateful for what Safe Families is doing. However, that has not been my experience. We had our first official hosting in March, but I interacted with several other families before that. Each mom that I met or talked to on the phone was a single mother who loved her kids but was either escaping an abusive partner or had serious chronic health issues and for various reasons had no friends or family able to assist while they were recovering from surgery.

An adorable little two-year-old girl named “Bella” came to stay with us for the majority of a month, starting March 11.The timing felt a little crazy with everything shutting down due to Covid-19 and my husband not able to work, but I couldn’t imagine saying no to Bella’s mom who needed surgery. I will confess that there were plenty of stressful moments and the month felt long. Bella was a typical two-year-old: she had strong opinions, several temper tantrums, and an appetite limited to pizza and crackers. But there were plenty of good times, too. I loved the way her face would light up when I came into her room in the morning, her delight on the sliding board in our backyard, and the way she would jump up and down with joy when we played the song “Baby Shark.”

I texted Bella’s mom regularly with pictures and videos of what we were doing each day. My boys were fond of her and played with her in our yard. They learned valuable lessons about sharing toys and serving others with their time. The social worker arranged for two different families to watch Bella over three separate weekends to give us a brief break from hosting during the stress of Covid-19. The social worker and case manager both checked in with me frequently to ensure that we were doing okay and had everything we needed. Another volunteer for Safe Families provided transportation for Bella to and from our house. The case worker dropped off donated clothes and a gift card for diapers before the stay-at-home mandate went into effect.

At the end of the month, Bella was able to go home to her mom! I had a very good first experience hosting for Safe Families, even though it was during a stressful time. I was impressed with the organization and care that Safe Families provided, and overwhelmed by the abundant grace of God. We agreed to respite hosting of Bella in the future if her mom needs extra help again. We are also open to hosting other kids who need a temporary home. My desire is that God would use us to help children feel loved and secure, and that our family would be truly grateful for all we have and eager to share that abundance with others.

Sonya is a mother of 5 boys. She enjoys gardening and reading, and as a family they enjoy playing board games or building legos together. Sonya, her husband, and her boys live in West Chester, PA.

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