GREENFIELD — Hectic summertime schedules have a local Christian foster care program strapped for volunteers, and leaders of the organization say they need a few extra hands to get by until fall.
Safe Families for Children, a faith-based organization, helps parents stressed by a variety of issues that make it difficult for them to care for their children, including homelessness, domestic violence and unemployment. During a parents’ moment of crisis, the nonprofit’s volunteers serve as a safety net for children in need by temporarily opening their homes to provide stability while Mom and Dad get back on their feet.
Safe Families for Children works to keep kids out of the state’s foster care system, said Melissa Ham, the nonprofit’s coordinator in Hancock County.
The organization connects a family in-need with a stable and caring host family, she said. The host family neither seeks nor acquires custody of the children they assist, but they care for the children for a few days up to a few month until they can be returned safely to their parents, she said.
Now, the organization is seeking more families to join its roster as the number of children who urgently need placement in a safe home rises to the most organizers have seen in recent history. The organization’s numbers change often, and having a hefty list of helpers to turn to keeps kids off a waiting list that has carried as many as 12 names, Ham said.
The organization often utilizes area churches to forge relationships with interested volunteers, Ham said.
Some 30 residents serve as the corps of volunteers for the county chapter. But summer and back-to-school season have these Good Samaritans pulled in different directions, so local leaders are calling on other residents to step up. The need for Safe Families in Hancock County varies daily, making it necessary to have a large pool of ready and willing volunteers.
Almost anyone older than 25 can become a Safe Families volunteer, organizers say, though the organization specifically seeks out married couples or single adults. Those who wish to volunteer must pass a background check and undergo online training.
The families the organization helps are often struggling because they don’t have a strong support system around them to help in times of need, said Amanda Chaplin, a local volunteer.
Without friends, relatives or other healthy relationships to fall back on for help, what might be a little stressor to some “can seem to upset everything you do,” Chaplin said.
Safe Family volunteers step in to be that support system, to be a helping hand when no other is available, she said.
Empty-nesters typically step up because they are eager to help young, struggling couples, but families with children of their own and flexible schedules also find great purpose giving their time and resources to those who need assistance, she said.
Melany Walden and her husband, Chase, became involved in Safe Families in November. In those few months, they’ve welcome six children into their home on separate occasions, each for a few weeks at a time.
It’s been wonderful and rewarding experience, Walden said, one their family has never regretted. They’ve formed deep bonds with the children they’ve helped and unbreakable connections with the parents of those children, who are always so thankful for the support, she said.
Safe Families, a faith-based foster family program, is looking for volunteers to host children in need.
Almost anyone 25 and older can volunteer. The organization looks for single people and married couples.
To apply, visit safe-families.org.