"Safe Families" networks/alternative to foster care

Discussion in 'A CALL TO ACTION! Calif. DMH Illegally Releases 17' started by Missizzy, Feb 12, 2010.

  1. Missizzy

    Missizzy New Member

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    I have to say that I'd only heard an inkling of this idea before today. I see a lot more work has been done on this idea and it is currently being proposed as a Senate Bill. I'm intrigued but cautious. I'd love to hear from anyone who's had any experience with this program in other states.

    We need innovation. We need progress. We need to think outside of the box as the box is not working. I promise to keep an eye on this and report back.


    http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/02/senate_considers_alternative_t.html

    Oregon Senate considers Safe Families networks as alternative to state foster care

    "Senate bill 991 would allow churches and other private organizations to sponsor Safe Families networks.

    These networks operate like informal foster care, using volunteers willing to help overstressed parents by taking in their children for a few days, a few months, or even a few years.

    The idea is to give parents a timeout so they can take care of problems with housing, drugs, jobs or other areas. The goal is to prevent the situation from deteriorating to the point that kids suffer neglect or abuse and child welfare authorities are forced to step in.

    Safe Families networks exist in 11 other states. Oregon children's advocates say they're intrigued because this state struggles with a high number of children in foster care. Last year, 13,291 Oregon children spent at least one day in foster care. The state's placement rate consistently remains more than 10 children per 1,000 -- almost twice the national rate."

    More at link.



    I'm interesting in that last statement. Are we, as citizens, doing something right by being vigilant to possible danger or something terribly wrong by not helping our hurting family more?
     
  2. annemc2

    annemc2 her name is Suzanne Marie Sevakis

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    Hi there Missizzy!

    Thanks for the interesting post. It is an intriguing idea. It's nice that there is no financial benefit to the adults who take the children in, but I kind of worry about boundary issues (Our aim is to facilitate a partnership relationship between volunteers and the biological parent(s), in which your family becomes a kind of "extended family" for the family in crisis. We encourage you to maintain a relationship with the family even after the placement ends, if possible.) Also the non-secular nature of the organization makes me wonder how it would be approved by a gov't organization. But I totally agree that *something* needs to be done for these kids, and giving families an option BEFORE they get to the point of needing foster care is a great idea.

    Here are the FAQs

    http://www.safe-families.org/10114/content/content_id/108595/FAQ_s
     
  3. Missizzy

    Missizzy New Member

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    ITA, it sounds intriguing but.......

    I'm actually more concerned about the lack of funding than anything else. Altruism only goes so far. When things get nasty, people drop something like a hot potato. I love the idea of seasoned foster parents mentoring newer ones and of mentors for aging out youth and at-risk families. But, I just cannot imagine it being sustainable without a stipend for the mentor.

    The federal government recognized long ago (1980) that foster children languish in the system due to the lack of support for adopting families. I think the same issue applies to those who choose to attempt to mentor/sponsor families who are court-involved or at-risk. A good heart is a wonderful thing to have but people stay around far longer if there's a paycheck, albeit a small one. Being that this would be a mentoring situation, I would think it would cost far less, however, than full foster care.

    So, intriguing, yes. And I agree, something's got to change.
     
  4. Salem

    Salem Former Member

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    Hi guys - I hope no one minds, but I am going to ask that this thread be moved to the Spotlight forum.

    It is a good idea! But I think it would require some kind of oversight. Interesting.

    Salem
     
  5. LogicalMinds

    LogicalMinds Former Member

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    This is interesting....I have long thought that we need more "immediate" solutions...like when a person is "off their meds", we need the old fashioned way that people used to call the mental hospital and off they went....to calm down, get back on track etc

    I think we need more "safe houses"...easily accessible to women and their kids who are in dangerous situations

    I think we need a way to quickly remove kids from dangerous parents and offer the parents a chance to "get help" or else

    I think this "alternative" idea might have some good points...but yeah I think that to work it would probably have to be funded, not just volunteer

    and again...who is watching the watch dogs?? We have seen how pedophiles are drawn to situations where they can find their prey , schools, bus driver, boy scout leader, "clown", etc....so what is to say that these "safe families" might be unsafe?? I think they would have to be checked out...I also think they would have to be compensated in some way.

    I really feel that there needs to be more "swift" action alternatives....to quickly remove a child from a dangerous situation, put them in some safe care and then assess the parents/home/situation.
     
  6. servalcat

    servalcat New Member

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    The safe families can be an option for parents who really are at a stage where they require assistance when they have lower level complexity of needs.

    More like a break when having become overwhelmed by their children's needs to get out of a rut in not dealing with basic management that requires some basic adjustments. So they can recover and then be given some basic strategies and options to manage with less stress, plus some positive experiences to resettle the children. I'm talking about parents who just need to have just a bit of improved coping and help with working to to be more capable with potential existing strengths and access to resources they can get.

    It can be useful for parents who have temporary medical conditions they need time out for in having their children cared for.

    Similarly if it's better for the children to be away while parents with complex separation issues, finding new accomodation and court attendances would provide greater stability than to be around that. Or need some time where a physically special needs child being placed for awhile is required to give needed time to other siblings who are starting to be adversely affected by the special needs child consuming parental time excessively.

    Or if having recently given birth to a very premature infant with complications in a distant hospital and not having enough other avenues of support for the siblings. Likewise if another child has a serious condition being hospitalised so parents can attend to that.

    It can be helpful where more minor legal matters, like unpaid fines have accumulated and the parent will need to spend a brief time in jail for the children to be cared for.

    This kind of program is not suited for when parents have substance abuse issues or significantly serious mental illnesses or a history of significantly unstable relationships where high risks of violence by a partner or having criminals in their network. Nor for children with a history of serious abuse, especially sexual abuse. These are exactly the situations well prepared foster parents can find hard, though they will be protected by their agencies in the kinds of contacts they would be exposed to and stronger guidelines in keeping everyone safe.

    Safe families is useful for providing the parallel of the easiest level of respite foster care which also may be in short supply. It has the advantage of being less stigmatising for parents and being less threatening for parents who really just need a period of assistance without the fear of loosing their children to state systems and more rigorous rules and conditions. This ought to make it easier for parents to seek and accept help before further complications or problems could develop for a family.

    It's not that likely safe families would end up with anymore pedophiles than sneak in any foster care agency or other childcare agencies. The pedophiles who have evaded arrests or been discovered until they are identified and face charges are a problem that the best agencies will always be thwarted by to some extent.

    The biggest risk is in the unpaid sector having idealistic persons in some equally idealistic organisations, churches etc., presuming they have more autonomy in dealing with parents they are helping and becoming ineffective in setting boundaries.

    Without payment there will be those who feel they are giving of themselves and become more vulnerable to doing things their way. It can seem the right thing to do initially until things go south later. Honeymoon periods can often occur and set things off course when it's gotten too late facing an out of balance mess.

    This risk is possible with naive well intentioned inexperienced people following instincts that may be reasonable were these parents of their own kin network, but aren't.In some cases it will end up becoming quite counter productive and get chaotic for both these helpers and the helped. It can risk dependancy that is not wise and/or too hard to sustain. When it's too hard or gets exhausting there are risks of families and children that were helped ending up suffering from abandonment occurring suddenly having assumed it was a more personal relationship than what the parameters of the foster care structure can effectively avoid.

    It can be hoped that a greater number of assistance situations will be constructive. It's a fiscal and placement bonus to regions that have it. The problem situations will not be made public knowledge due to vested interests by the money saving aspect for a region, nor the churches or agencies regarding their public reputations. Helpers who got burnt wether by own errors or other reasons won't either be keen to expose themselves for the most part. Eventually a few individuals wether the helpers of families who felt hurt by this will eventually come out of the woodwork and disclose their experiences.

    It will be interesting to see overtime how this option unfolds.

    All who indicated that while seeing potential and having concerns are accurate. All services assisting vulnerable families are commendable in their aims, all have these days evolved high levels of client confidentially, yet all have been fraught by risks ensuing from struggling families, issues at varying levels re accountability and a general state of negligible transperancy.

    So any less formal form of assistance is much more prone to being a double edged sword. While it has its distinct benefits through lesser formality in access and experience, this reduced formality means its open to potential of becoming a more risky service.
     

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