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Church and Child Protection: The Safe Families Story: Volunteers Offer Hospitality to Families in Need

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2014 Pages: 612-617
David Anderson
Date Published
April 2014
6 pages
This article describes the work of a program called Safe Families for Children (SFFC), which exemplifies the role that churches have in assisting parents in difficult circumstances to care for their children.
SFFC was founded in Chicago in 2003. It is a multisite volunteer program that works through churches to support families in distress. The program consists of a network of "host families" and mentors that provides needy parents a sanctuary for the placement of their children in times of crisis. Volunteer host families are screened and trained by publicly supported child protection agencies. Parents voluntarily place their children in safe, loving homes where they are nurtured and protected until their parents are able to provide dependable care. The average length of stay with a host family is 6 weeks. Throughout the hosting arrangement, the host families address the placing parents' needs, so they can be prepared to re-unite with their children. Host families are assisted by other volunteers, who are usually recruited through faith communities. Intact or family-preservation workers also make referrals for parents. There are three levels of involvement in the SFFC from which churches can choose. A "participating church" recruits volunteers for the program. A "lead church" recruits volunteers and also supports them with regular meetings. In addition, they reach out to placing parents, offering resources. "Community lead churches" provide the services of the other two types of churches and also expand their reach to any SFFC volunteer whose church does not provide that level of support or who is not affiliated with a church. Chicago has just over 1,000 host families taking in nearly 1,000 children per years. The program has spread to 65 cities in 26 States. Overall, 90 percent of participating children are returned to their parents. 5 references