Today, I have the privilege to introduce a guest writer to the blog, Caleb Bartholomew. We initially met in a college writing class and found we had mutual interests in writing and Biblical languages. When I started writing about foster care, I knew I wanted to get Caleb on board to talk about Safe Families, a program I was still relatively unfamiliar with. Today’s post will give information about the program and share firsthand experience with Safe Families.
Getting dirty for Jesus was a common theme during my collegiate years. “They Smell Like Sheep” was a big inspiration for me along with Titus 3:3-8. I realized I once was dirty and Jesus saved me, and it was my job to spend time with people who also smelled like sheep and bring the Gospel to them. I wrote many papers on the topic and combined them together for one major project. I knew the theories backwards and forwards but the practice I lacked. At seminary, I was reading a book called “Contagious Christian.”
The irony: I was on a bus with earbuds in but I could hear a Moody student trying to witness to a girl who knew the Bible better than he did and she was not a believer. The topic was right in my wheel house, which was the Greek language. I figured I could read about being a contagious Christian, or I could actually be a contagious Christian. I popped my earbuds out, jumped in, and saved the day. The Lord really moved in her life that day. Her exact words were, “that really rocked my world.” God worked on me about getting dirty for him. The direction he showed me was in the form of taking
care of orphans and widows.
My wife and I looked into foster care. We took the first couple of classes and there were things outside of foster care that would negatively impact our biological children. We looked into Safe Families for Children.
It’s a faith based organization, it deals with children in crisis. It was right up our alley. We did the application, the profile questionnaire, and got our home study done. We got approved and waited. And waited.
Then, through an adoption agency we became aware of a homeless, once-drug- addicted pregnant woman. She got kicked out of her living facility because she relapsed but she was court ordered to be at a permanent residence or she might end up in jail. Not wanting her child to be born while she was in jail, we allowed her live in our house until she had the baby. To us, she was a modern widow. Someone who didn’t have a husband to help care for her.
Soon after she left our home, our second child was born. Then we quickly received our first Safe Families placement. The first getting dirty for Jesus happened pretty quickly. Not thinking about where the little girl was from, I started a lawnmower near her. Immediately she freaked out and I knew what happened. From the area of Chicago that she was from, there isn’t grass to mow. She didn’t know what a lawnmower was, likely. It wouldn’t have been anything she needed to experience before. I got her calmed down.
That was probably the tamest instance. The hardest thing was watching the looks she got at the playground when other parents couldn’t figure out whose parent was hers because her melanin levels were different than everyone else’s. You know. That look. It was like her parents were being judged for not being within eye sight of their daughter. The looks on their faces changed when they realized she was with us, but not in a good way. They didn’t know her story, but they passed judgment anyway. They passed judgement on her. They passed judgement on her family. They passed judgement on us. It’s a badge we’d wear over and over again.
Families Helping Families in Crisis. Safe Families for Children™ (SFFC) is a national movement of compassion that gives hope to families in crisis. This network of volunteer host families help parents who need temporary care for their children as they work through unmanageable or critical circumstances.
We get involved with families where there is homelessness, mental illnesses that need stabilizing, and other areas where parents need help with their children. Usually these parents don’t have a great support network around them where they can ask family or friends to help them. These situations often lead to stress on parents, and if they don’t receive help, often times it puts children into danger. We take action before they need assistance from the state which accomplishes two things. It allows parents to get back on their feet without tarnishing their name. It also eases stress on an already overworked foster care system because we are taking children into placement who do not need to be in foster care. It’s completely voluntary so parents can end placement whenever they want and begin placement whenever they want. There isn’t a list of things they must accomplish to get their children back. If not for Safe Families and other similar organizations, these children could end up in foster care and be separated from parents for longer than what might otherwise seem reasonable in a situation where a parent might voluntarily place their children with the state. One of my coworkers gave her child to foster care because she couldn’t miss one day of work, but she couldn’t leave her child with daycare due to sickness. In our state, there’s a mandatory minimum for placement with the state.
With the children, there’s always a story that’s not always great. The parents bring their own baggage to the table, and it’s not always pretty. Their lives don’t always look like ours, and they may be a little messy. A little dirty. All they need is someone to show the love of Christ unconditionally to them to help them get back on their feet and care for their children in the best possible way.
Guest Post Written by Caleb Bartholomew