Large families and the state of IL

Yes, I know this topic is becoming tiresome to some of you. Frankly, it's becoming tiresome to me as well. And yes, this is not what I should be doing right now, but it is better for my family to have me process all of this by writing it out than by ranting at them.

It all started with a phone call this morning. A friend had alerted me that a mother of four children, who desperately wants to keep her children, finds herself in a place where she needs some time to get herself to a place emotionally and financially in order to be a good parent. She needs respite care for her children while she does this so she contacted Safe Families.  Do you know of Safe Families? You should. It is an organization started here in IL which provides short-term care for children. It may be care because a parent has been admitted to a hospital and has no one to help out, or it could be like the mother I just mentioned who needs some time to get her life back together but wants to keep her children. It is a way for children to avoid foster care and to help keep families together.

But Safe Families must abide by the laws of each state and here in IL, foster care, in any form, cannot be provided by families with 6 or more children. I am well aware of the reasons for this rule, but I am also aware that a rule without any way to make exceptions can be ultimately harmful. And here in good, ole' IL, there are no exceptions... and IL certainly thinks it knows best. This means that the licensed social workers in IL are not taken seriously and their every opinion is second-guessed by people who have never actually met the families in question. It means that Safe Families cannot interview and visit a large family and decide if that family would be able to provide short-term respite care. It means that these four children, on top of having to be moved to another home are now going to be split up during the care period and will not have each other for support.

Because let me tell you an uncomfortable truth. I find it is usually the large families who are willing to take on larger numbers of children. The woman I spoke with at Safe Families has NO ONE (and these would all be smaller families because of the foster care regulations) who is willing to take all four children together for three months.  Yet I have contact with more than a couple large families who would take all of them in an instant (though some of us might be scrambling for beds.) Why is this?

I'm really asking. Is it because the idea of more than doubling the child population is too overwhelming? Is it transportation? Is it just a matter of practice? My guess is that it's a combination of all of these things. The reason why those of us with more children find it manageable is that we've already had practice caring for multiple children, we have large vehicles, we are set up for a lot of children. Going from 10 to 14 doesn't seem quite as overwhelming as going from 2 to 6 and tripling the child population in the home.

Since all the blog posts in the world are not going to change IL's policies, I will put out a plea. This is particularly directed to those of my friends and readers who live here in IL. Could you be a Safe Family? Could you get past the impossible and see what God can do with your willingness? You may not be able to help this mother and her children, but if you started now you could be ready for the next one. And I know there will always be a next one. We live in a fallen world where things don't work as they should.

Please, put your life on the line and make a difference. What is the worst that could happen? You could be inconvenienced for a period of time. What is the best? You could see the power of God and you could make a real difference in the life of a child and his or her family.

Contact them. Please. I can't help and so desperately want to, but you could. You will need to fill out an application, go through some training, be fingerprinted (join the club... I've been fingerprinted at least 6 times), and have a homestudy written. Don't let the homestudy scare you. It just means a social worker comes to your home and makes sure it is safe and interviews you. Your home doesn't have to be spotless. Really... I know. But do it now. You may say that if God wants you to do this, he will send the people you need to help, but the reality is God often works through others and those others cannot send you anyone to help if you are not prepared.

So, Body of Christ... rise up! Wouldn't it be wonderful if every reader of this blog could say, yes, my church supports Safe Families and we have many members who stand ready to help. And what does it say about the reality of our collective faith if we can't even do that much?


sandwichinwi said…
I, too, would help, but alas, I am in WI, and if I WERE in IL, I also would not qualify.

What a great idea for a program, though! I don't think we have anything like that here. Not that I am aware of anyway.

I will pray for the mother and her children and the family(ies) who receive them.

Dave Rader said…
A suggestion: existing foster families and large families could "foster" some adults to prepare them for the experience. I'm thinking of having an adult of the family considering becoming a safe family live for a couple weeks with an existing safe/large/foster family to experience some of the elements of integration, sustaining and transitioning out of young children.

Hosting college age and older people on a transition basis is more manageable because they can do more for themselves. The host is a type of bed and breakfast provider. With children, the time commitment is larger and less predictable.

Therefore, an opportunity to "live the dream" might help build confidence to an interested inquirer.
thecurryseven said…
We have a lovely guest bed and bath. Let me know when you want to move in! :-)


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