Things at the Handley home have leveled off lately. We no longer have a *baby* in the house...she is toddling her way into being a walking, talking, sleeping through the nighter. We are getting the hang of this homeschooling gig. We are well settled in our house. Life is pretty sweet right now (knock on wood!). So it is time to shake things up a bit, don't you think?
Our new adventure: becoming a host family for Safe Families for Children. In a nutshell, it is much like being a foster family, but rather than being licensed through the state to care for children that have been removed from their parents, we voluntarily take children that parents voluntarily place with us during a time of crisis. Kids come into the program for any numer of reasons; homelessness, loss of job, addiction, domestic violence, hospitalization of parent, referral by DCFS...the list is very long. The kids range in age from newborn to parenting teen, though we will be taking children under age 6. The length of their stay can range from 2 days to a year or more, with the average being a couple of months. Safe Families works to find a safe home for every child they are asked to take, whatever the reason.
What we think is particularly neat about this program is that Safe Families, and we as a host family, get to work with the parents as they work through their situation. This means that we can help the children talk to, visit and stay in contact with their parents. We can offer some mentorship, help them find resources, and just provide a listening ear and sense of community. These are families who have no one else to turn to. We were touched by this question in our training: "if you were to lose everything you had, how long would it take you to secure a meal? housing for the night? housing for a month?" For us, the answer would be the length of one phone call, one facebook status, or walk to the house next door. We are so blessed. But the reality is that for some people, they have nobody to turn to. What a privilege to get to be that person for someone.
Now, we are not totally naive (delusional). We know this will be hard. We know that we cannot change the whole world. We expect that this will open our eyes to needs that we had never even considered, and we expect to be humbled by our limitations in helping meet those needs. But if we can change the trajectory of one family by just a few degrees, or provide some early love and bonding for a little one, we would be honored.
I want to write about bits and pieces of our experience here because I have not been able to find much writing on the experience of host families, even though there are 90 host families in our county alone. Obviously I will be sensitive in what I share, but I hope that maybe a few of you out there might like to take this journey with us and learn about things that we never knew we never knew. And if you see us out and about with an extra child, or see a plea to borrow clothes or kid gear, you'll know why. So here we go!
When I get a chance, my next Safe Families related post will be... applying to SFFC and the homestudy process. It is kind of a funny story.