SFFC Greater Milwaukee

With A Little Help From My Friends

For many of us, life in the past year has been a struggle.

Now imagine adding to that struggle — you’re an overwhelmed young mom with a 1-year-old, struggling to find/ keep a job, desperately in search of housing and childcare, pregnant with twins, and due to give birth any day. What would you do? 

That’s where Safe Families’ Greater Milwaukee chapter stepped in.

Although this young mom, Jasmine*, initially only needed a hosting for about a week while she delivered her twins, it’s been the volunteer Family Coach and Family Friend involvement whom Jasmine credits as the reason why she isn’t “hitting bottom.”

According to Chapter Director Jennifer Shiller, Jasmine’s situation is a classic family friendship where the initial crisis subsided, but the long-term relationship has made all the difference. In Jasmine’s case, Safe Families volunteers have walked alongside her to job interviews, parole meetings, and even advocated for her to have a 5-day hosting for the twins so she could catch up on some much-needed rest.

What makes this work? First, the Family Friends are very well-resourced throughout the process. A Family Coach is assigned at the beginning, who regularly checks in with the Family Friends to make sure they don’t need anything.

Second, the Greater Milwaukee chapter recognizes that families in crisis want relationships, so unless a host family expressly opts out, they’re also in the Family Friend pool. Jennifer says that not only adds to the stability for the family in crisis, it also creates more flexibility and stability for their staff and volunteers.

The end result? Volunteers stay longer. Staff experiences less burnout. And ultimately, more families get the help they need. Jennifer says the situation is easier to morph, making it as versatile as needed. She explains that for Jasmine and others in similar shoes, the circles of support work so well because they’ve figured out who are 4 to 6 people they can rely upon.

She adds that due to Covid-19, there aren’t quite as many hostings happening in their area. But the Family Friendships have grown exponentially — up by nearly 250% of what they were in 2019.

When you volunteer as a Family Friend, Safe Families for Children connects you with an at-risk family that could benefit from a healthy support system. And Family Friends can also support Host Families by providing meals, respite care, transportation, etc. Learn more about how you can be involved, here.

* Name changed to protect her privacy.