Giving Compass’ Take:
•Safe Families is a nonprofit organization that serves homeless children by placing them with vetted volunteer families until they can be reunited with their parents.
• What are the main differences between the Safe Families model and the foster care model?
• Read about the RAND study that evaluates how the welfare system could do more to protect kids in foster care.
Launched in 2002, Safe Families for Children has served almost 20,000 children in 27 different states. Over 90 percent of the children hosted through the program have been successfully reunited with their biological families; for kids who enter foster care, that number is only slightly more than half. And Safe Families costs around $10 a day per child served (private money that is evenly drawn from individual donors and foundations like the Schulze and Morgridge family foundations). Foster care costs five times that much, almost all of which comes from tax dollars.
The program’s volunteer host families—who undergo an extensive training program, home inspections, and background checks—are typically recruited through churches or other religious institutions. Unlike foster parents, they are not given a stipend. Safe Families does help provide for material needs of children while they are being hosted, and pays for state-required fingerprinting and law-enforcement checks.
Additional resources are also provided by donors to support the children. Churches, for instance, frequently provide clothing closets, diapers, and other necessities that host families can use. Church and community donors defray the costs of summer camps or extracurricular activities and provide volunteer help with carpooling or babysitting.
How does the charity convince families to take these kids in without any compensation? Donor Doug Campbell, a retired business executive, tells audiences of churches and other religious organizations that Safe Families “is about families helping families. If that’s part of your mission, this is something you should be interested in.” The group has had little trouble finding people who are willing to open their homes to children.
Safe Families is not a replacement for foster care—as any number of people involved with the program emphasize.
Read more about Safe Families at Philanthropy Roundtable
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