Why I Started Safe Families

I recently spoke to a group of employees representing the branch offices of Georgia Pacific. I was honored to share Safe Families. The CEO was interested in their employees serving in the community and a making a difference. I was asked what motivated me to start Safe Families. It was good for me to remember.

I was working as a child psychologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago. I worked on a unit called Pediatric Ecology.  The absolute worst child abuse situations from across Illinois would come to Mt. Sinai for a 5-day hospitalization where a team of professionals would evaluate the children. As the psychologist, my job was to do a psychological evaluation to determine the cause of the abuse and the psychological impact on the child.  Although many children impacted me, there was one child that was roughly my daughter’s age, probably 5-7 years old. I was shocked when I walked into her hospital room. Her face was black and blue, arm was broken, and brain was swelling. I knew that many of her injuries were going to heal (amazing how God designed the body).  However, the psychological impact of the experience would be lifelong.

I was surprised, when I interviewed the mom, to learn that her daughter was sick and that if she were to miss one more day of work, she would lose her job.  She had no family. She grew up in foster care and her parent’s rights were terminated, but no one wanted her (adoption). She had no family and few friends. She didn’t want to lose her job, so she asked her ex-boyfriend to watch her. She was unaware that he returned to drugs.  Her daughter was hurt by him while she worked.

The mom lost custody of her child only because she had no one to call. The consequences of poor decisions multiply when parents have few options. When parents lack support, they need safeguards and backstops.  That is why I started Safe Families. I still believe that many of these horrible situations can be prevented with kindness, generosity, and hospitality. We’ve demonstrated this over 50,000 times as SFFC has come along side of families supporting them during a time of crisis.

As we come out of the pandemic, the mental health impact of social isolation is becoming more and more apparent.  Suicide is one we hear about the most. However, many parents (including many of us) struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and incredible discouragement. We are beginning to see the multiple consequences of poor parental decisions when few supportive options are available. Safe Families is needed more than ever.

In April, we celebrate Safe Family Sunday. It’s an opportunity for churches to challenge their people to be part of this community safety net. Could you make sure your church highlights Safe Families in April or May? If you have taken a break from Safe Families or have never participated, there has never been a more important time than now to be a part of a movement to keep children safe and families together. Why don’t you join us!