By Amanda Boston

Where do children go during a family crisis when the issue does not warrant foster care? For at-risk families facing challenges like sudden unemployment, loss of housing or an acute illness, the Safe Families for Children™ program exists to fill the gap.

Through the program, children do not become part of the state foster care system. Instead, the nonprofit ministry places children ages newborn through17 years old into loving Christian homes while parents work through their crisis. Every effort is made to keep siblings together.

While enrolled in the Safe Families program, children live with host families for an average of 45 days as parents seek the help they need through different agencies.

Safe Families for Children™ falls under the umbrella of Bethany Christian Services™, a faith-based national child welfare organization. Kevin Trotter, Florida’s Director of Bethany Christian Services, launched the Safe Families for Children program in the Tampa Bay area in 2013.

Christina McGee, who supervises Florida’s Safe Families for Children™ said, “We currently have 30 host families in the Tampa area but would love to double that so we can reach more families.”

McGee explained that host families have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on a child’s life by sharing the Gospel of Christ to every child they host. Furthermore, the at-risk parents have frequent communication with the host families, which often blossom into harmonious relationships between the host family and parents.

McGee continued, “All our host families are volunteers and Christian. We require an extensive background check, references from a pastor, two personal references, interviews and home screenings.”

The program enables host families to specifically choose the children they prefer to host such as age, gender, etc. Moreover, support systems are in place to encourage the host families.

If you are interested in becoming a host family, visit https://safe-families.org/. Also, if know of a family who could benefit from Safe Families for Children™, the intake line is 444-8543.

Bethany Christian Services also provides family counseling, pregnancy support, adoption services and post-adoption support. For more information on Bethany Christian Services, visit www.bethany.org/florida.