A Positive, Preemptive Alternative to Foster Care for At-Risk Families

By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.

boy-1300401_1280Far too often, families find themselves deep in crisis. Be it job loss, health concerns, addiction and more, these life crises present very real, potentially life-altering challenges for families… especially for the children who are relying on their parents for basic food, shelter, clothing, guidance and love.

In many instances, children find themselves being removed from their homes and placed into foster care for their own well being. Wouldn’t it be terrific if there were a preemptive alternative to kids being forceably removed and placed with foster families, an experience which often leaves children and their parents feeling traumatized and helpless?

Well there is! It’s called Safe Families for Children.

Thanks to a grant of $50,000 from Oprah Winfrey, Safe Families was established to build a support team around families in crisis before something bad, or even tragic, happens to that family. Using a proactive, preventative model for at-risk children, Safe Families allows parents whose families are in crisis to connect with volunteer host families who open their hearts and home to take care of these at-risk children on a short-term basis until the placing parents are able to get back on their feet and can resume the responsibility of the care and well-being of their children.

Safe Families LogoThis progressive, collaborative model of supporting at-risk families is quickly catching on! Indiana Executive Director for Safe Families in Central Indiana KRISTA SEEDS shares that because placing parents remain involved with their children while they are being temporarily cared for at host family homes, the transition is peaceful and children seem to readily adapt. This is in stark contrast to many foster care experiences children and families go through.

While working as a pediatric intensive care nurse for Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, IN, Krista witnesses first-hand the tragic consequences of child abuse and neglect.  One case changed the trajectory of Krista’s life… a tiny 2-year old girl named Ebony was in the ICU fighting for her life. Ebony’s mom was weeping in the corner of the room, so Krista approached her and began to learn about the violent situation she and Ebony were in… an abusive man was keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table, but at a great cost. In the end, that great cost was the taking of Ebony’s life. Following Ebony’s death, Krista was inspired to take action and do something preventative for women and families in need of support, until they can safely get on their feet and find a way for both themselves and their kids. It was then that she decided to partner with the national Safe Families for Children organization and start the inaugural chapter of Safe Families in Indiana in 2008.

Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Safe Families boasts 114 chapters across the U.S., in addition to new chapters being established in the UK, Kenya, Canada and Hong Kong. Krista shares her vision about the impact Safe Families has and describes this wonderful service as a bridge to “help kids in crisis to preserve families and our communities”.

This collaborative arrangement reduces trauma for all members of the family and allows the placing parent to keep their children in a safe environment until that parent(s) gets back on track and is again able to care for his/her kids.

A key component to this model’s tremendous success is that host families and the kids stay in touch with the placing parent while the children are away from their parents… in fact, daily phone calls are an integral part of the plan. This collaborative arrangement reduces trauma for all members of the family and allows the placing parent to keep their children in a safe environment until that parent(s) gets back on track and is again able to care for his/her kids.

The average stay for a child in a host-family home is 45-days, but the placing parents and the host parents stay in-touch. Krista describes this as a continued “support team around the family… almost as an extended family.” Krista also shares the process host families go through, as well as the match-process itself.

Nationally, Safe Families hopes to secure 100,000 volunteers around the country which would enable them to provide over 200,000 hostings (i.e., individual child placements). To learn more about Safe Families, to volunteer or even become a host family, visit Safe-Families.org.

Families in need are invited to call the Safe Families national toll-free line at 1-855-240-6604 to request partnering with a host family.

About Krista

Krista Seeds & Daughters Safe Families Central Indiana v1Krista Seeds has been engaged in the care and safety of children since graduating from Indiana University in 1986 with degrees in chemistry, biology and nursing. She worked in the pediatric intensive care unit at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, IN for 16 years, was a member of special care teams including ambulance transport, open heart recovery, administration and helped develop the hospital’s magnet status. It was during her time at at risk.Riley that she worked with children who were hurt or actually lost their lives because of abuse or neglect – that experience inspired her to become an agent of change for children

In addition to her family becoming a therapeutic foster family helping over 50 children in 10 years, Krista assisted in launching Safe Families for Children in Central Indiana in 2008. Safe Families for Children has 114 chapters throughout the United States and is expanding into Canada and overseas. With a goal of enrolling 100,000 host families in this progressive program by the end of 2017, Safe Families hopes to host 200,000 children in that same period who are at-risk and whose families are in crisis. Connect with Safe Families of Central Indiana or with the national Safe Families for Children.

About Ginger

Chance and GK 2013-04-26Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and trained child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues. Along with her husband John and pets Lexi and Chase, Ginger enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, brisk mornings, colorful sunsets and just hangin’ at home with “the Pack”.


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2 thoughts on “A Positive, Preemptive Alternative to Foster Care for At-Risk Families

  1. I’ve experienced first hand the trama that families experience when a child is removed from their homes by CPS; whether temporarily or permanently via forced adoption, IT HURTS everone involved!! They took my then 3 yo prescious grandson based on false testimony by two social workers who we had never met. We couldn’t pay the $20,000 lawyer retainer fee to fight them in court, a nd now he’s been gone over two 1/2 years. I pray that he is well cared for in his new family and that he is loved and happy. Oh how I wish we could even just visit him so that he would know how much we love him! He was loved and well cared for by us and his young parents! !!
    I have always wanted to help children who have been abused or children who don’t have enough to eat because their families are poor, since I had the wonderful experience of volunteering as a camp counselor for for children from poor families and mentally challenged children, when I was 15yo ( 60 yo now).
    I wholeheartedly support what you are doing to help abused children and families! May God be with you and all you do!
    Although I have Lymes disease and am unable to commit to helping on a daily basis, I would be grateful to be of service to your cause in some way. Please let me know if/ how I could be of help to you. Oh, and if this helps, I am a podiatrist ( physician & surgeon of the foot & ankle, ) currently and hopefully temporarily not working

    1. Cathy,

      I’m sorry to learn what your family has experienced… I, too, hope the children are safe, healthy and happy. In terms of assisting, sharing information with your circle of influence is most helpful – thank you! The more we talk about child abuse prevention, the more children we’ll collectively be able to help. Thank you for taking the time to write.


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