Safe Families for Children Alliance

Safe Families for Children

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Many families with young children face crises such as the loss of employment, inadequate housing, poverty, domestic violence, drug and/or alcohol misuse, or incidents that find them dealing with the police and the courts. These issues, in socially isolated families (no caring neighbors or extensed family, can lead to abuse and neglect episodes requiring foster care involvement. Safe Families for Children hosts vulnerable children and creates extended family-like supports for desperate families through a community of compassionate volunteers motivated to keep children safe and ultimately together with their families. Parents (referred to as placing parents) voluntarily place their children in safe, loving homes (host family homes) where they are cared for (average of 6 weeks) while other volunteers (family and resource friends) wrap around and support the parent to help them get back on their feet and restore stability in their lives while preventing child abuse.

Problem Statement

23.6 million referrals child abuse (involving 6.6 million children) are reported each year in the US resulting in 443,000 children in foster care (2017). Despite billions of dollars invested, kids enter foster care at alarming rates. Although there are a number of reasons that contribute to child abuse (drug use, mental health issues, poverty), social isolation (parents have no one to turn to when things go wrong) is the leading underlying cause of parental stress and the subsequent need for government custody. The greatest percentage of children suffered from child neglect (75%) and physical abuse (17%), and 1,546 children died because of child abuse. The length of children’s stay in foster care typically extends beyond one year for a median duration of 377 days. They psychological impact of child abuse compounded by the disruptive impact of foster care and numerous placement changes has a detrimental, long-term impact on the psychological well-being of a child. Many children aging out of foster care becaome homeless and often enter the criminal justice system.Problems (poverty, homelessness, drugs) in socially isolated families who lack support can exasperate and lead to abuse and neglect. In many cases, A crisis can resolve if the problem of social isolation is addressed. Providing safe places for children while building social supports via volunteers for socially isolated and fragile famlies can prevent child abuse and the need for foster care.

Solution Overview

Founded in Chicago in 2003, Safe Families for Children (SFFC) is a volunteer movement that gives hope and support to families in distress by reframing how families are supported during a crisis. Safe Families directly addresses a root cause of neglect —social isolation—by hosting vulnerable children and creating extended family-like support for desperate families. This is accomplished through a community of devoted volunteers motivated by compassion to keep children safe and out of foster care. Parents voluntarily place their children with safe, loving, and thoroughly screened host families where they are cared for while additional SFFC volunteers help parents restore stability in their lives. The SFFC model is focused on providing “breathing room” and support for parents in crisis that allow them to stabilize while their children are in a safe and loving environment. The SFFC model is able to prevent child abuse before it happens by addressing the underlying family needs and, more importantly, by potentially deflecting half of neglected children entering the foster care system, thereby reducing the size of the child welfare system by 20 to 30 percent. SFFC also rallies thousands of Family Friends and Resource Friends to help parents and reunite families. Over 5 years, Safe Families can support hundreds of thousands of parents and their children in a nuber of large geographies to prevent harm to children and the need for child welfare interventions.

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Project Funders

  • Illinois DCFS 2010 - 2019
  • Oregon DHS 2019
  • Hedgefund Cares 2016 - 2019

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