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I liked everything that I heard about Safe Families before I experienced the ministry first hand. It’s an organization committed to caring for children and families in crisis—needless to say, they’ve generated pretty positive word of mouth.
Before my first visit, people described the ministry to me as incredible, unstoppable, innovative, and all-around awesome, which was why I was a little surprised when I wandered into the office for my first meeting with Krista Davis, the director. The headquarters of this “incredible” ministry seemed pretty…well, regular.
I made my way past a friendly receptionist into a space with quiet, plain rows of cubicles where Krista approached me with a warm smile. Everything about Krista was calm, together, and kind. She led me into a conference room to discuss Safe Families a little.
We sat across from one another under pretty standard office conditions—rolling chairs , conference table, bookshelves, etc. It was all so tranquil…not really what I’d imagined. I’m not saying I was expecting the Law & Order theme song to be playing…but kind of. Wasn’t this supposed to be a cutting edge, high impact ministry, fighting injustice one child at a time?
After basic introductions, Krista began explaining how Safe Families works, and within five minutes, I realized that this ministry wasn’t “incredible” and “unstoppable”—it was much more.
Krista may have begun the Indiana chapter of this growing organization, but she doesn’t take credit for the design behind it—that one belongs to God. Safe Families is simply orchestrating a system in which people can act as a community. It’s just a matter of matching a need with people who are ready to meet it.
The need is big: safe places for children when their families can’t care for them. In my mind, I thought that foster care had this covered, but it turns out that our system has a gap between keeping an eye on children in nurturing environments and caring for children who need legal intervention on their behalf.
I was shocked to learn who falls into this unfortunate gap. We are surrounded by people who are raising children without support—single parents, people without extended family, some people who haven’t connected with anyone that they can trust to take care of their children when a situation arises.
What happens when you’re a parent without a support network? Krista explained that something as simple as checking into the hospital to get a necessary surgery becomes impossible. Getting evicted from your home puts not only you but your children on the streets. Overcoming an addiction becomes especially difficult as you try to cope and parent simultaneously.
In these situations, children enter into the care of the state. Well, they did before Safe Families arrived.
Last week, I decided to “ease” my way into the Safe Families world by sitting down at their weekly staff meeting with the fulltime staff at the core of the organization. We began with a serious moment of prayer for the work ahead—a prayer that included things like, “Lord, we know sometimes you have to break us to bless us.” What was I stepping into?
Immediately following prayer, we got to work. Each staff member brought forth what was on her plate at the moment—children in placement, children who need placement, moms struggling to get back on their feet, volunteers who are looking to help…
As we jumped from case to case, I was distressed. I listened to the story of woman who is wheelchair bound after being hit by a car, and now she needs someone to take care of her young children while she recovers. I listened to the story of a woman who has entered back into an abusive relationship that the staff of Safe Families is trying to pull her out of. We discussed case after case of heartbreaking situations, all taking place within miles of that meeting.
Meeting the Need
It was a lot to take in, but I was in awe of the women around me. Not only do these ladies know the ins and outs of their clients and their needs, but they know exactly who can help. They brought up volunteer after volunteer from memory and discussed who would be the best fit…oh, and this was out of a database of over 160 volunteer families.
That’s right. 160 local families are opening their homes to children. Beyond that, there are countless volunteers who offer rides and other services to families hosting children and to the families in crisis.
But the volunteer families don’t just take in children, they become invested supporters of the family in crisis. Even after a child is returned to his or her biological family, the volunteer host family maintains a relationship with them.
So this is what people mean by ‘innovative’ and ‘incredible’, but those labels aren’t exactly fitting for what’s going on here. To put it in the words of Krista, the model of Safe Families “just makes sense!”
Community in Action
Now I understand the hype. Safe Families is more than an organization—it is a functional community. The staff has created a network where people can step up to serve one another. They are invited to truly be neighbors to one another, to offer support when it’s needed most.
Honestly, the proposition is a little daunting. Making a conscious decision to embrace need in our own backyards can be exhausting—just ask anyone who has been involved in placing 649 children through Safe Families in only three years of business.
But it’s certainly right.
Krista explains it as mercy we are all carrying, “…a mercy that needs to be poured out, and when you do, it fills you.”
These are the people I’m excited to meet. We are surrounded by people who are full, people who have embraced caring for children and caring for families as an extension of their own families. Their actions are not heroic, not far removed from anything that we’re capable of—they’re just doing what makes sense.
From what I’m learning, what makes sense is revolutionizing how we live in community with one another.
- Learn more about Safe Families by visiting their website: www.safe-families.org
- Not from Indianapolis? No worries! Safe Families is in action around the country. Find what’s going on near you on this map: http://www.safe-families.org/whatis_locations.aspx
- Consider volunteering with Safe Families. The organization can use your talents and time to help impact the lives of children and families.
- Do you work with children? Be on the lookout for signs that children and families are struggling—they may need the help of Safe Families or your local child services to intervene. Children need advocates.
About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.