A Family Affair

Written by Laura Rasche

What seemed like a fast transition of me stepping in as Director of the Central Indiana chapter of Safe Families in May of 2021 had actually been a work in progress for nearly nine years.

In the summer of 2012, my own children Nettie ( 5) and Cy (8) came home from summer camp and announced that they thought we should be a “safe family.” What is a Safe Family I asked? The lady running their summer camp was one, and what my children knew at their young ages was that they were getting the opportunity to meet new kids, sometimes on a week-by-week basis, and they were excited about these new friends. Truthfully, I didn’t think we would qualify. I was, and still am, a single mom. We did, and still do, live in a 1,100 square foot house. Pets outnumber people. I was working full-time and putting myself through grad school. How on earth would we do this?

But what I could not get out of my mind was the fact that we always had leftovers and space at our table. It was that nagging thought that couldn’t let me just give up on this whole Safe Family bit. I could feed another mouth. We had plenty of love to share. And even though our house was small, we had a spare bed and plenty of room in our hearts. So, we applied, went through the process, and became a Safe Family. And over the past 9+ years, we have welcomed about 40 children into our home and our hearts. We have met, loved, and walked alongside their parents. They haven’t all been easy, by any stretch of the imagination – and we found ourselves having to stretch and compromise in areas we never even thought about.

Yet, when people tell us how “wonderful” we are, I cringe. We aren’t wonderful. We are doing what Jesus calls us to do – love our neighbor. Sometimes that is literally, and sometimes they live 45 minutes away. But every time, we love them. How they are. Where they are. Through the good and the bad, the achievements and the ugly. Safe Families is all about becoming that extended family for those that don’t have it. As a single parent, I know that the trajectory of my life looked different because I had parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who were fighting for me. Now it was our turn to fight for someone else. A lot of someone else’s. And we were completely honored to do it.

Fast forward to today. My kids are now 14 and 17, and they just successfully launched the first in the nation Safe Families Awareness Club at the high school level. They are spreading awareness about the issues that plague our community and vowing to make a difference for future generations. They recently held a community event where they presented about Safe Families, the impact it can have, and how others can get involved. They can hold a solid conversation with you about systemic poverty, generational poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and isolation – and can immediately offer you ways to make a difference. They are making it their mission to leave the world better than they found it. They will be the next generation of volunteers for this organization. And they are bringing their friends and classmates with them on this very important journey.

Cy and Nettie have had the privilege of speaking on several host family panels during informational sessions and host family training over the years. They share from a kid’s perspective what this experience has meant to them. At an info session last fall, one of the potential host moms in the room asked my daughter if she ever felt like it “messed her up” hosting at such a young age. My daughter’s response was simple yet impactful: “I honestly don’t remember my life without Safe Families in it.”

Quite frankly, neither do I.