This year has been busy. Often times, when placing children with host families and building relationships with parents, we find ourselves saying “it takes a village to raise a child” ~ I would say, “it takes a community to move a movement.” Check out what God has done through our local community to keep the Safe Families movement in Madison County in motion.
Since March of 2013, God has allowed us to have served 38 families in Madison County, accounting for 82 children hosted. We have overseen 362 child placements, which means we’ve had a number of repeat placements, weekend respite placements, or children being placed with other host families. There have been over 40 host families recruited to serve children in need through efforts made by Safe Families in Madison County.
What does this mean?
It means a 17 year old girl with a severely mentally ill mother is now able to finish her High School career with a loving host family. It means a father in work-release can have his daughters cared for by members of a local church where they are staying connected to their school and community. It means a single mom is able to get a second job on the weekends. It means a mother having major surgery doesn’t have to have her child placed in foster care during her hospital stay. It means a struggling family with 4 children with behavioral issues can receive respite and co-parenting from some amazing teachers-turned-host families at their local school. These are just a few of the needs Safe Families has been able to meet.
Safe Families is a church movement where host families are not only recruited through churches, but the churches are also given the opportunity to re-engage with their community and to provide critical care to families in crisis. Safe Families presentations have occurred at 14 local churches including: Catalyst, The River, Pendleton Christian, Bethany Christian, Markleville North Christian, Ovid Community Church, Park Place Church of God, South Meridian Church of God, Pendleton Church of God, and Tabor Church. Our churches have provided meals to new moms, internal support for their host families, emergency funding for placing parents, clothing donations and storage, assistance with purchasing and the maintenance of vehicles, and more!
Due to these amazing efforts Safe Families now has clothing bags and grab bags ready to go with kids when they are placed with their host families! The grab bags were created by the children’s ministry at Bethany Christian Church, and the clothing and toy donations have been given through generous people as well as 3 Little Monkeys and Outfitters. Clothing bags have been made by host families and a sewing group from Ovid Community church, and the bags were lovingly stuffed by youth from Pendleton Christian Church.
Where do we store all this stuff you ask? We are able to store our clothing and furniture items in a storage unit at Pendleton Lock-Up thanks to a donation made by the Kiwanis Club. We have a dedicated volunteer, that has not only built shelving for our unit, but also volunteers his time to move furniture for our families. Bethany Christian Church has built their own shelving units and stores clothing for families hosting in their area.
What do we do for our families at Christmas? Each Christmas we have a group of dedicated ladies, organized by Pam Nevins and Priscilla Sellers, who team up with Independent Federal Credit Union to bring Christmas to up to 6 families. They do an incredible job! The families that are not given help through IFCU are adopted by other host families or caring people. Over 40 kids and their families received help with Christmas this year!
Fun Fact: One family spends the entire month of December collecting scrap metal and monetary donations, then purchases gifts for a select family and hand delivers the gifts. I love seeing what people do when given the opportunity to serve others!
Jason Kistler and the family adopted by “The Hudson Project”
This year, we presented Safe Families to Madison County DCS in hopes of having better clarity about what we do, what we don’t do, and how our two teams can work together. We NEED to be working together cohesively because ultimately we are fighting the same battle from 2 different angles. We have also presented Safe Families to the principals at Anderson Community Schools and worked with the school counselors in South Madison County in hopes of further engaging teachers and staff within our schools. We had an awesome example of a school counselor from the South Madison Schools this year! She called not only to refer a family in need to Safe Families, but she also recruited the host families needed to care for these children, and three teachers become host families to care for children within their own school. Amazing!
Safe Families of Madison County has been financially supported by so many great local agencies including: The Sherrif’s Department in No Shave November, Madison County Community Foundation, South Madison Community Foundation, Rotary Club, local businesses and individuals, churches and fundraising events.
One such event this year was our annual Concert for a Cause 2015 in August at the Dickmann Town Center in Anderson. We raised $9522.52 for Safe Families in Madison County – and had an amazing concert with the incredible George Dennehy, who inspired us with his story, amazed us with his talent, and reminded us of what God was capable of accomplishing through his people. It was an event not to be missed and we can’t wait to see what this year’s Concert for a Cause will hold.
So much has been accomplished, which goes to show that God is good and we have so many amazing people and volunteers involved in the movement of Safe Families. Surprisingly, we only brought on our second employee in Madison County in October of 2015. Funding for that case-coaching position is available through continued local support. During her second week on the job she logged almost 70 hours… she was much needed, a Godsend in fact! Welcome Casey Getzin!
Beyond Madison County
We have began a partnership with the Church of God. This is an amazing opportunity to spread the Safe Families movement within all Church of God churches, both locally and nationally. We kicked this off with a short presentation at the Church of God convention in Oklahoma this June. There is more to come, Lord willing!
On a larger scale, Safe Families is working on the Safe Families Act for the entire state of Indiana which we hope to get passed this this coming Spring session at the Indiana General Assembly. In a nutshell, this Safe Families Act will make it easier to do what we already do and it allow people to help people! It will also allow host families to serve as a foster family, which will give kids the best opportunity to be served well.
Personally, my highlight of the year occurred when a 9 year old boy attended church during a presentation about Safe Families. It’s rare that we get the opportunity to hear, from the mouth of a child, what the love and care given by safe families means. This child asked if he could talk about Safe Families from the front of the church. Since I am rather fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants by nature, I decided to go for it. The pastor called the boy up when it was time to talk and he was asked to share his experience. He read a quick little letter he had been working on while sitting in the pew:
“I’ve made very…very bad choices in my life for 9 months straight my parents did not know what to do, but God he provided Safe Families for me. When we had our meeting for Safe Families I said I was scared but hopeful. I went to 3 host families. They all care about me they all help me because of God. Every time I cried every night, praying and praying, promising and promising and believing he can do it and he finally helped me! His strength, will and His power all of it helped me.”
This boy not only stole my heart, but shocked me. This type of love and care was given to him at such a critical time in his life and only God knows what was happening in his heart at the time.
The help given to this child was possible because here in Madison County, God has opened the door for the Safe Families movement to exist, giving people the power to help people and the Church the opportunity to re-engage with the hurting and the broken. May we continue to spread this movement and help more families in 2016 and have more opportunities to say, But God….
Director, Safe Families for Children Madison County
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27