Parents connect to Safe Families for many different reasons, but there is one consistency in every story. A family has nowhere to turn to in a crisis situation. They are alone and isolated from a caring community. Teena reached out to Safe Families for Children during just such a time. Over the course of a few weeks tragedy had devastated the family, Teena was mourning the loss of two family members and the family was homeless due to a house fire.
Teena shared that she went to a local community agency and was given a list of over 40 organizations that might be able to help. She began to call each one. As she called, left messages, and waited with anticipation for at least one return call, one organization reached out immediately: Safe Families for Children.
“I began to pray, Dear Lord, please have mercy on me and my family. We need help. Please have at least one organization return my call. That’s when I received a call from the staff at Safe Families. They were kind, caring and eager to help in any way possible. I was so overcome with joy, that I had to pull over to the side of the street.“
Randy Hunt (Co-Director of SFFC Treasure Coast) quickly reached out. Teena’s children had one request, “Please help keep us together. We have been through so much and have always been together our whole lives.” Understanding how difficult this hosting might be to place all the children together, Randy promptly knew they needed divine intervention. “Heavenly Father, as we come to you on a day when there seems to be no hope, we know that you have a way forward for this family. We pray that a family will say YES to hosting all four children in their home to allow them to stay together and have a sense of peace as their parents work to find housing.”
Our practice at SFFC-TC is to reach out to at least three volunteers with a YES opportunity to serve. Through thoughtful, prayerful consideration, three volunteer host families were contacted. Within an hour, a host family said, “Yes, we are available to host.” When asked if they would be able to host two children or all four, their response was, “All four!” God truly answered a prayer that day! Teena’s prayer for a way forward and her children’s prayer to be able to stay together revealed to them that through Safe Families for Children, God was paving a way forward for each of them.
As an immediate next step, a meet and greet, was scheduled to occur the following day. Teena and her family were so excited to meet the host family. During the meet and greet, the children and Teena developed an immediate comfort level with the host family and a plan for transition of the children to hosting was developed. As the weeks progressed, the host family invited Teena and her husband to their home to enjoy dinner and quality time together with their children. As the children began to thrive, Teena and her husband were able to work extra hours to earn extra money to be able to save up to lease a home not too far away from the host family. On one particular weekend, the children planned a surprise birthday for their mother with the help of the host family. During a planned weekly visit, the teenagers surprised Teena with a birthday gift and enjoyed cake together. This experience often comes up in conversation as one of the positive memories experienced during the overall hosting.
When the hosting ended, Teena and her family moved into a new home. Their family began to attend a local church and the children joined a youth group. As they began to settle into their new home, school and community, the children began to look for part-time jobs so that they could contribute to the household income. At present, Teena, her husband and the children are all working and have maintained their lease for one year. She is working with her family coach to complete the application process for Habitat for Humanity to move forward on the path to home ownership.
Teena’s story truly exemplifies the guiding principles and core values of Safe Families for Children. Responding with compassion fueled by mercy was an opportunity for Teena and her family to see a way forward. The demonstration of radical hospitality and immediate transition to hosting of the four children allowed Teena, her husband and children to experience the unconditional love and support of a circle of volunteers who are led by the Holy Spirit to serve as the hands and feet of Christ within their community. The disruptive generosity experienced by the placing parent when the host family opened their hearts and home speaks to the power of being open and willing to share the resources and blessings we are given to be that “hand up” to allow families in crisis to stabilize and begin to thrive.