Safe haven for families in crisis

By December 24, 2009

USA (MNN) — Christina Frank knew she needed help. She had quit her job as a certified nursing
assistant at an assisted living center when she was four months pregnant,
planning to find work again when the baby was born, the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution reports. Several
months later, she was running out of money to care for 4-month-old Jayden and
18-month-old Isaiah.

four years before, absence from a drug treatment program and the discovery of
marijuana in her home had resulted in Frank losing custody of her three oldest
children. Frank was determined not to
lose a chance to do better for Isaiah and Jayden. She called a 1-800 crisis number affiliated
with Bethany Christian Services and found a lifeline in the form of Safe
Families for Children.  

Families provides temporary homes for children while their parents focus on
resolving issues that threaten family stability, such as sudden loss of
employment or housing, post-partum depression, acute illness, physical injury, financial
instability, relational stress, or teenage pregnancy. The idea is to help parents resolve crises
before they escalate, children are hurt, and families break up.

"I cried all night thinking about
being away from my boys," Frank recalled about her decision to place her boys with
Safe Families. "But I was suffering. I
knew what I had to do: I told myself I needed to take this opportunity to find
a job to be with my kids and to make things better." Jayden was placed in one family, and Isaiah
in another, with the Gordons. Later, the
Gordons went out of town, and Isaiah came to live with the Oakes family. 

screens and trains the host families, who not only care for the children but
also build supportive relationships with their parents. In Frank's case, the Gordon and Oakes families
helped her find an apartment and revise her resume, as well as providing
encouragement throughout the job hunt. 

"I think I would have felt like
giving up if it weren't for the emotional support," Frank said. "They were not judgmental. They were there to

The program did not burden Frank
with strict requirements, but it did put her on a treatment plan that set goals
such as finding a job and daycare for her kids. For three weeks, she spent 10 hours every day looking for a job. She found a telemarketing job that pays $25
for every subscription she sells. 

"Christina has a really great
personality, and she has a lot going for her," said host mother Mary Oakes. "I
know the blessings we bestow on her, she will bestow on someone else."

The average stay of a child with
Safe Families is 45 days. During that
time, the parents are kept in touch with their child and kept up-to-date on how they
are doing.  Host mother
Kelly Gordon said this communication is key to helping the child's stay go

"The parents will tell me what
the routine is," she explained. "Some
kids like to take a bath right before bed. Some kids like it when you sing to
them before bedtime."

The program began in Chicago in
2002 and has now spread to 14 different locations. In Atlanta, the state government covers the
$199,700 annual administrative costs but plays no role in running the

"What's not to like about it?" said
B.J. Walker, commissioner of the state Department of Human Services, whose
office oversees state child welfare services. "I think most people would love
to help someone who has been trying to do the right thing and they stumble. .
.These children have not been abused or neglected."

To learn more how you could make
a difference in the life of a needy family, visit

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