How Community Collaboration Works

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ― Helen Keller

The goal of preventing child abuse and decreasing the number of children entering the foster care system takes a shared responsibility and commitment. We believe when local communities collaborate and work together, families can experience better outcomes as they take essential steps toward stability and get back on their feet. But what happens when a family is facing a crisis situation in isolation? Many parents rely on relatives and friends for support. But for some, this is not enough—or even an option.

That’s where Safe Families for Children comes in. Here is just one example of how we get referred, partner and collaborate with other organizations to surround parents with caring, compassionate communities. It truly does take a village approach.

James White and his family were living in a homeless shelter in Jacksonville, IL before they were referred to Safe Families. James became homeless, along with his four children when the apartment they were living in caught fire. While living in the shelter, James’s diabetes was causing problems with his feet. As his condition worsened, it became apparent James needed extensive medical treatment or possibly amputation. James met with the mobile crisis unit, and they referred him to Safe Families for Children. 

When we partnered with James, we were able to provide a hosting for three of his children while he received medical treatment for six weeks. Amazing Safe Families’ volunteers surrounded all the host families and James as we set goals and collaborated with local partnerships to provide wrap-around support for the White family. While in treatment, many community agencies joined with us to provide resources and support and to collectively meet the goals of housing, medical recovery, and paying a substantial electric bill. 

The beauty of community collaboration is that many organizations work in partnership for family stabilization and strengthening. The day before James was released from the hospital, housing became available through generous donations. Hope Thrift Store provided some household essentials, Warm Neighbors Cool Friends paid the $3800 past due electric bill, and Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living paid the water deposit and provided furniture for the family. The Jacksonville Police Department joined with Safe Families and helped move in beds that were provided through Catholic Charities. The next day the children were reunited with their dad. Due to the overwhelming community support, donations, and volunteers, the family had a home just in time to celebrate Christmas together. 

While James was in the hospital, he met with Ambrose Gonzales, a supervisor with another local organization, Bella Ease. Mr. Gonzales shared the following with the various community agencies helping the White Family: “Finally, it should be noted that Mr. White feels a great deal of gratitude, and rightfully so, to Safe Families. He became nearly tearful when speaking of the gratitude he feels to Safe Families. I think that together we all helped this family stay together and be stronger but if not for the help and support that Safe Families has been and currently provided, we could have failed in this struggle.”

So why do we share this? When communities work together, we can truly provide wrap-around support to vulnerable parents who encounter difficulties caring for their children. Without community collaboration, this father could have succumbed to his infection-which had entered his bloodstream. Without community collaboration, his four children might have spent Christmas morning in a local shelter or worse yet, entered the foster care system. And without Safe Families helping bring the community together, The White Family might not have seen the hands and feet of Christ, working through volunteers and partnerships to help better their lives. What we are doing matters! “The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40.

We are extremely grateful for all the community organizations we work with nationwide and remain committed to building strong collaborative partnerships to carry out the mission to keep children safe and families together.

Submitted by Erin Shue, Family Coach Supervisor for Safe Families for Children Springfield, IL Chapter