The other week we had yet a home visit from a social worker. I'm thinking we should have some version of a home study every year, because when else do we pull it together to have every room in the house clean at the same moment?
It was not for an adoption this time round, but to have our household approved as an official Safe Families host family. Safe Families is a voluntary program that parents can use to care for their children temporarily when things are unstable. Occasions when most of us reading this would probably be able to rely on our personal support networks; our friends or families or faith communities would help us care for our kids during our crisis. Not every family has that sort of safety net. That is where Safe Families steps in--to be part of the support network for a stranger and help prevent the sort of situations that sometimes can snowball into neglect and end up with kids in the foster care system. Most children stay just one or two months and there is a real emphasis on the parents and host families working together to share information and keep the children connected with their parents during their stay.
The saying gets kicked around a lot that adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I think it's overly simplistic, but it does speak some to why Safe Families appeals to me. It is a temporary solution to temporary problems, communities working together to keep families intact and stable.
I learned about Safe Families years ago from another blogger (of course) who was part of the program in Illinois, where it began. I found out that our local Catholic Community Services branch was working on starting a program in our city (no small feat--it required passage of a new state law) when they set up an information booth at one of the annual summer festivals here several years ago. Every year I've gone to ask if they are ready for host families and every year have been told, "Not yet." Until this year, when they handed me an application packet instead. We zipped through the online training and paperwork, and here we are.
The program is brand spanking new where I live. I think we will be only the fourth or fifth family to be approved. So there is a small band of us sort of forging ahead together, learning as we go. After seeing our home and talking over our options with us, the program director thought that our family could be a good fit for children from 0-8 years old or possibly for teens who are parenting children of their own. It's strange to imagine older kids living here!
Eddie is especially enthusiastic about the whole thing, although I'm sure that will be tempered eventually by the reality of having to share his room and his toys. (And his parents.) We've explained that sometimes kids need a place to stay while their parents solve adult problems. To him it is simple: there are families who need a little help and we have places for kids to sleep. So why are we not doing it already? I have my adult worries about stretching our family to do something we've never done, about whether our best will be enough for kids in such vulnerable spots. I'm nervous. But I have to admit, I have a little bit of his excitement, too, to be part of a community solution like this for an issue that means so much to me.