TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – A group of volunteers aiming to keep kids safe when their family faces a crisis is now operating in Tippecanoe County and looking for volunteers to help.
Safe Families for Children is a faith-based movement that’s been expanding across the country since 2002.
“Many of us, if we were to face some sort of a hardship, we have family and friends that we can rely on to help us with our children and to help us get back on our feet. But a lot of families in this community don’t have that support,” said Abigail Heath, a spokesperson for the local chapter of Safe Families. “So the idea of [Safe Families] is that the church would…be that support network and be that kind of extended family for families in need.”
Some of those hardships may include unemployment, homelessness, illness or incarceration.
Carissa Bartholomew, a mother of two young boys, went through the application and screening process with her husband last year to become a host family — which required a background check and home visit.
“We just really know that we’ve been blessed,” said Bartholomew. “We’ve been given a home, and we’ve been given a situation where I’m able to stay home with my children. And we knew we wanted to use that situation to meet a need.”
The Bartholomews hosted a young child for six weeks.
“Our goal is to prevent kids from ever being in a place where they’re going to be abused or neglected,” said Heath. “Because often times abuse and neglect happens when families are facing a hardship or a crisis and has nowhere to turn for help.”
Heath said parents maintain full custody, and they can have their children back whenever they’re ready.
The group does not take active cases involving abuse and neglect.
Safe Families is not associated with the court system. But Tippecanoe Superior Court Judge Faith Graham said the program, and others like it, are a good idea because they can sometimes help prevent families from ending up in the system.
“The formal system is reaching its capacity,” said Graham. “So these informal options for families to prevent them from being drawn into the formal system are huge. It has an enormous impact on our ability to help families without drawing them…much more deep into the system.”
Bartholomew said, “We don’t really have a lot of finances that we can give. We don’t really have many other resources. But we know that we have time, and we have love, and we have a safe home. So we wanted to use those resources that we do have to try to meet a need.”
Safe families hopes others will join the group. An informational meeting for anyone interested will be held Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. at Faith Church in Lafayette.