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Stopping chaos and building a future

Safe Families are seeing transformation in Newcastle

With a recent report from the Department of Education (DfE) praising Alliance member Safe Families for Children as "one of the most adventurous start-ups in children's services for some time," we found out how the charity are providing volunteers to transform the lives of thousands of vulnerable children.

Estimating that the charity’s work with more than 3,000 volunteers could reduce children going into care by 15 per cent*, the DfE report said the work had: Potential to support several thousand of England’s neediest children; to greatly reduce the numbers of children in care, and to demonstrably forge a new relationship between public systems and civil society.”

Every family experiences times of crisis, but without help at the right time, crisis can quickly turn into chaos meaning children going into local authority care.

Says Keith Danby, Safe Families chief executive: A lot of families today just don’t have the community support that was around in previous generations. There are so many parents who are single and isolated, suffering ill-health or disability, or just not coping, all of which then affects their mental well-being and ability to care for their children.”

In these situations, Safe Families wants to stop struggling families being broken apart. churches in these families communities want to be a link in supporting them and help make change for the better.

The charity trains church volunteers to know how. Since it was founded by philanthropist Sir Peter Vardy in 2013, Safe Families has helped more than 4,600 children through its 3,400 nationwide volunteers.

Case study: I hated life.“
Leanne was finding it hard to cope with her young boys, one of whom has times of being violent towards her. On medication for bipolar disorder, Leanne says: I hated life. I hated living. I was in a bad place before Safe Families came.”

Lonely, but struggling to trust people after bad experiences in the past, Leanne found it difficult to get beyond shallow small talk and share about what was happening in her life and the difficulties she was facing. 

People told me, you need to learn to trust somebody’, says Leanne, so I let Safe Families in.”

Safe Families provide three kinds of volunteers,” says Keith Danby. Host Families look after a child overnight for a couple of days to a couple of weeks; Family Friends befriend and mentor parents or children through difficult times; and Resource Friends supply a wide range of goods and services the family needs.”

Through a Family Friend volunteer, Leanne started to make positive steps: to make friends, to get out of the house, to learn to do new things, and spend time with her boys. “[My Family Friend] never lets us down,” she says. She’s always here when she says. I think that’s the most important thing we’ve learned, that we can trust people. They make me stronger, so I’m a stronger mum.” 

Says Keith: Being someone trustworthy who can look after the children while mum’s having hospital treatment, have a cup of tea with an isolated dad, or give mum a double buggy which enables her to take her children out — that’s how our volunteers show Christ’s calling to love our neighbour and transform the society we live in.”

Leanne and her family are now regulars at their church and the friends and fellowship she has now has, she says, given her confidence and a better future: 

I was so close to putting my kids into care because I didn’t think I could parent them. Our standard of life was not the life I wanted to be living. I look at how far I’ve come and I can do it, and I am doing it. And my kids are happy and they’re healthy and they’re loved. I don’t even want to think what life would be like without Safe Families.” 

The charity is contracted with 28 local authorities in the north east of England, Midlands, Greater Manchester, Mersey, and the south coast; all through volunteers from 654 churches.

Our goal is to keep the family together,” says Keith. The appalling number of children being looked after’ is now up to 95,862 in the UK and 72,670 in England. He adds: 90 children enter the care system every day. The poor outcomes these children face when they come out of care was really the catalyst for starting Safe Families in the UK.”

Asked why volunteers and churches should get involved, Keith says: Once families get to a point of no return the life-long damage is so hard to repair. And it’s so easy to help! It’s just people helping people. So many are open to help and volunteers can see the impact they’re having on parents and children – impact that may well change the entire trajectory of their lives.”

*Ref: Department for Education, Safe Families for Children Evaluation report, Dartington Social Research Unit July 2017

We asked Safe Families why they are a member of the Alliance

Safe Families for Children is committed to working with others to give better outcomes for the children and families in our communities. Partnering with hundreds of local churches across the UK, our relationship with the Alliance is a vital aspect of this. We recognise and affirm the Alliance’s vision of a united church, confident in voice and inspired for mission. 

Safe Families for Children’s Chief Executive, Keith Danby, served on the Board of the Evangelical Alliance and Council of Reference for more than10 years.

How are you transforming in your place? #EAtransformers

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