Every year Diablo Magazine recognizes “local heroes who make the world a better place in special ways… changing our community for the better by volunteering.” In December 2018 our own board chairman, Gary Guarisco, was recognized for his invaluable contributions to the organization’s vision, growth and success.
When crisis strikes, many of us rely on relatives and our church family for support. But for some parents, there isn’t a safety net. Often problems such as drug addiction, domestic abuse, incarceration, or illness can be debilitating, making it impossible for parents to care for their children. With the changing economy many more families are experiencing financial crisis, unemployment, and homelessness. During such crisis, children are especially at-risk for neglect or abuse as their parents struggle to cope with crushing circumstances and emotions.
State welfare emergency hotlines throughout the nation reportedly receive over 5 million calls each year of suspected child abuse or neglect. Of those calls, about one million meet the criteria for state intervention. What happens to the remaining four million families that don’t qualify for help?
Overburdened by need and restrained by resources, law and policy most state welfare agencies are allowed to rescue only children who have suffered blatant abuse or neglect. Overwhelmed and underfunded, the state is ill-equipped to deal with a problem of this magnitude.
Without assistance, many of these families will find the issues in their homes escalating to episodes of abuse and/or neglect with long lasting consequences for not only the child, but also for our communities as well.
Since 2005, Safe Refuge for Children and Families has offered sanctuary to thousands of children, minimizing the risk for abuse or neglect and giving parents the time and tools they need to help their families thrive. The ultimate goal is to strengthen and support parents so they can become Safe Refuge for their own children.
Safe Refuge for Children and Families strives to meet three objectives:
Child Welfare Deflection: Safe Refuge provides a safe alternative to child welfare custody, thus significantly reducing the number of children entering the child welfare system.
Child Abuse Prevention: Providing an overwhelmed and resource limited parent with a safe, temporary place for their child without threat of losing custody. By offering support, the goal is to avert potential abuse/neglect episodes.
Family Support and Stabilization: Many parents struggle because of limited social support and unavailable extended family. Many Safe Refuge Volunteers become the extended family that a parent never had.
Hallmarks of a Safe Refuge Model:
Biological Parents maintain full custody
Volunteer families are extensively screened and supported
Six-week average length of stay (ranging from two days to a year)
Average age of child in SFFC care is 4.5
Close relationships between Safe Refuge, the local church, & the referring organization
Commitment to reunite the family as soon as possible