JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – When parents are going through a crisis, a local program is ready to help.
The program is called “Safe Families for Children“, and is run through Bethany Christian Services.
It helps families after they experience a variety of disasters, such as families fleeing for safety, natural disasters, or homelessness. The need is even greater right now in Johnson City, due to COVID-19.
“Specifically in the Johnson City area, we have a huge need. We are saying no more often than yes, simply because we don’t have those families to host those children,” Bethany Christian Services assistant branch director Lynsey Stubbs said. “A mom being at home with her kids, potentially losing her job. The anxiety has just elevated.”
Safe Families for Children differs from foster care because the program is all voluntary from both parties, host families do not get compensated and the parents of the child maintain custody.
On average, children stay with host families between two weeks to 30 days.
“Or it could be as long as a year,” Stubbs said. “If the plan is that that mom is maybe going into a reabilitation place, and the program is a year long, there’s potential that we could committ to a year.”
Katie Loftin has hosted a total of eight children in the last two years. She learned about the program through a neighbor.
“It was about two years ago. One of our neighbors was hosting twin girls, newborn girls. We would see them in the neighborhood and the neighborhood pool. She works for the school system, so during the day, we offered to help with logistics: getting children to places, helping out to keep the girls and also to give her a break,” she said. “That point forward, watching our children interact with young babies and their excitement for that, we knew that this was something that we were being called to do as a family.”
She provides transportation, sets up important appointments and gets kids enrolled in school.
“Hosting their children during the day. So, that they can go meet social services or setup for food stamps or look for housing. Often times, it’s going with them. They’ve never had to do these things before. They don’t know where to go,” Loftin said.
There’s an option to use “The Circle of Support” to split the responsibility among host families.
“Most of us are working or have families of our own. It is asking your church. We have lots of churches that provide support when we’re hosting to help with meals, to help with transportation. If I’m taking someone to school, someone else can take mom to a job interview,” Loftin said.
Loftin said she is still in contact with the families she has hosted.
“It’s been almost two years since we’ve been in contact with them and we hold a weekly Bible study and they still come. The kids are involved in church. We see them very frequently still,” she said.
Ninety-five percent of children are eventually reunified with their families, through this program.
How to become a host family:
- Apply: Families fill out a preliminary application.
- Screening: Volunteer Host Families undergo a screening process, which includes background checks and references, as well as a home visit.
- Hosting: When families are facing a crisis and need short-term care for their child, you will be contacted to host the child in your home.
- Reunification: Safe Families are reunited in a stable home environment.
Bethany Christian Services has a location in Johnson City: 100 Dyer St, Johnson City, TN 37601. Call (423) 782-9345 for more information.
The next closest location is in Knoxville: 318 Erin Dr #10, Knoxville, TN 37919. Call (865) 588-5283 for more information.
Anyone interested to be a host family or allow your children to stay with a host family can click here.