For this week’s blog post, I’ve asked Robin Chamberlain, who serves as the National Director for Bethany’s Safe Families for Children TM (SFFC) ministry, to share details regarding a recent birthday party she and her staff attended to demonstrate the impact the SFFC ministry can have on families…an impact that begins when a family is facing a crisis, but one that can continue long after the crisis has passed. This is the kind of impact that can strengthen families and change lives.
SFFCis a national movement of compassion that gives hope to families in crisis. Safe, loving homes are provided where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while parents seek to restore stability in their lives. SFFC’s dedication to family support, stabilization, and child abuse prevention is driven by responsibility for the well-being of children in the communities it serves. Founded in 2002, SFFC has partnered with churches, local community agencies, and volunteer families, as well as government organizations in more than 20 states to provide essential extended-family relationships to nearly 3,000 children and families annually.
Here is Robin’s story (Names have been changed to protect privacy):
Jeremiah, Charlie’s dad, contacted SFFC about 8 months ago, at the suggestion of his caseworker. Jeremiah was facing up to a year of incarceration and was at risk of having Charlie screened into foster care if he didn’t find a safe place for Charlie to live during that time.
Jeremiah called the number for the SFFC ministry in his area; He spoke with Mike and explained the situation to him. Mike asked several questions to help determine how long Charlie would need to be hosted and what needed to happen in order for Charlie to be able to return home.
Jeremiah couldn’t believe a host family would voluntarily, without compensation, take care of his little boy while he was incarcerated! He asked the question often posed by parents facing a crisis: “Why would you do this? You don’t even know me!” This question opens the door for SFFC volunteers to share about Jesus. To share in whatever way they are led, fitting to the one who has asked. Often the answer involves talking about how we, as Christians, are called to love our neighbors, care for the vulnerable among us, and to be generous stewards in all the provision that God has granted to us.
As God would have it, Jeremiah didn’t have to go to jail. But he was homeless, unemployed, and had other responsibilities that made it difficult for him to parent Charlie. He needed time to focus on getting his life on track. The SFFC ministry allows him to do this, secure in the knowledge that Charlie will be safely cared for by his host family.
Charlie has been with the Streeters for the past 8 months while Jeremiah works on addressing his responsibilities. I’m happy to say that Jeremiah is now employed and is saving for a place that he and Charlie can call home. During this journey, the Streeters and Jeremiah have become like spiritual extended family. Ralph Streeter and Jeremiah have become friends. Ralph is not only the host dad, he is a SFFC Family Friend to Jeremiah—a mentor to provide support, a listening ear, or help with some of the hard questions in life.
Jeremiah is a frequent visitor in the Streeters’ home. He appreciates the opportunity to spend time with his son, sharing dinners and even an occasional sleep-over. But perhaps just as important, he appreciates being surrounded by positive people—something he has never experienced before. He recently joined his new found spiritual family to celebrate his son’s birthday and we were invited as well because we have become, by Jeremiah’s request, his family’s ‘people.’
SFFC is a movement of the church, a movement of biblical hospitality. Implementers like Bethany assist church communities in bringing SFFC to their location by providing all the tools needed to plan, launch, develop, and grow. We screen and approve the potential volunteers churches send to us. This includes fingerprinting and background checks, home screenings, training, and support. The average length of a hosting is 45 days, but it could be as short as a single night or as long as 18 months. Churches ‘do the work of the ministry.’ We minister together. Families stay together that would otherwise likely end up in foster care and adoption because the crises’ without positive, supportive relationships to help, end up with children getting hurt and families torn apart.
If you are interested in finding out more about the SFCC ministry or would like to serve as a host family, visit http://www.bethany.org/main/safe-families-children for the nearest location to you or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.