Holding Families Together with a Structure of Support
Every day there are households of all varieties living in crisis. Even in flourishing suburban communities like West Chester and Liberty, there exist families who are overwhelmed by desperate situations. Not everyone has access to family members or friends on which they can depend when life is at an impasse.
What if we could help lift these families out of despair and empower them to help themselves? What if the systematic methods of child welfare services could be complemented by a proactive forum of holistic family support?
Safe Families for Children is an initiative that offers voluntary child care to these struggling families. Children referred to Safe Families are welcomed into a secure and loving home offered strictly out of compassion, and never for compensation.
The interim living arrangement for a child in the care of a Host Family is short-lived, and is quite simply a show of grace and humanity to provide temporary relief. It allows time for parents to make necessary corrections and regain self-reliance.
“Safe Families is a faith-based, Christian ministry. It’s a powerful social movement, and there are thousands of people involved worldwide,” explains Chris Combs, Catalyst for Safe Families in our area. The ultimate goal of this ongoing relationship between Safe Families and the people it serves is the reunification of families.
Combs is responsible for bringing the ministry from its roots in Chicago to the Cincinnati region. Organized primarily through local church communities, there are now dozens of families in West Chester alone who are hosting children and building relationships with the parents of those children through Safe Families.
Parents in distress are typically referred to the ministry by hospitals, medical facilities, churches and elementary schools. These entities are familiar with Safe Families, and are committed to using it as a resource when they encounter a need.
While their children are nurtured in a loving environment, struggling parents are immersed in the Safe Families community where they encounter tangible, effective support.
Host Families stand to benefit as well.
Abi Omoloja, a West Chester resident and Safe Families Host Family father says, “Hosting a child is a family affair. Everybody gets involved, even our teenage kids.” Abi and his wife Leye most recently hosted a one-year-old boy, Ayden, for several weeks.
“We treat him like family,” says Abi.
Abi explains that his kids are always excited to host when a child stays in their home. It’s like playtime to them. He has noticed in watching the kids interact that his teens seem to be developing skills in responsibility and have learned to be more authoritative.
“They are seeing how we give back and show care for other people,” he says.
When asked how their busy family manages to make time for a young child, Leye contends that it all falls into place.
“We don’t feel we are doing anything extra. We are called to do this. If a child wakes up in the night, we just get it done. It’s a ministry. You get up and do it.” She adds, “The reward is great when we pour love into somebody else.”
As part of this vibrant fellowship, Host Families such as the Omolojas are supported by other Safe Families volunteers. Babysitting, transportation and meals are available to help alleviate logistical challenges as they arise.
While Ayden is fortunately back at home with his mother, the Omolojas still make time for casual and supportive visits with both of them. Safe Families inspires such relationships, which helps transform a struggling family into one of wholeness.
“We partner and collaborate,” affirms Combs. “Those who were in social isolation now have hope working alongside them because they have caring adults walking next to them.”
In his experience serving families in crisis, Combs has learned that government welfare systems and charities do not lift people out of poverty. As Combs see it, what truly works is a relationship that aligns people in crisis with a permanent support structure like Safe Families.