When crisis strikes at home and children are initially removed for their safety and entering the foster care system due to abuse, neglect or abandonment, they experience a flood of emotions. Confusion, fear, anger, grief and uncertainty rush in like a flood as they are often picked up by a police officer at school and must sit in an office beside a caseworker as arrangements are made for their placement with a foster family or in a group home, which can take hours or sometimes days. They may wonder if they are in trouble and could know very little about why they are unable to return to their home. Often all they have with them are the clothes on their back.
A meal, a bed and a smile
In the midst of this trauma, SafePlace 4KIDS has opened a welcoming front door to the foster care system by providing comfort, support and encouragement for children experiencing this frightening journey. Their doors are open 24 hours, 7 days a week to greet these children with warm meals, beds to rest on, shower facilities, toys, books, and playrooms for infants, toddlers, children and teens. Most importantly, there are kind caregivers whose only concern is to love these children through that trauma.
Last year 1,045 kids were welcomed at the Broward County SafePlace, 7,963 meals were served and most of these children received back packs with tooth brushes, clothing and basic necessities.
Having an emergency intake and placement facility like SafePlace makes a real difference for these children. It offers them compassionate care during this difficult time and gives caseworkers the opportunity to find the most appropriate home for their stability. This is especially helpful for sibling groups, teens and children with special needs.
SafePlace opens in Palm Beach
According to Tom Lukasik, vice president of community engagement at 4KIDS, the program was so successful in Broward that ChildNet asked them to open another SafePlace in Palm Beach County. Due to financial support from the local community, SafePlace Palm Beach opened in December to care for abused, abandoned and neglected children during their most vulnerable moments.
One day at SafePlace
Dana Render, who worked at the Broward SafePlace, recently wrote the following about her experience there on one particular day. “Today at SafePlace I spoke with a young lady who said she really missed her mom even though her mom is the one who gave her the bad ‘pow pow.’ No matter what abuse allegations a parent has against them, their children will love them. We talked about God and she helped me get dinner ready.
“Later we had a sibling group of four children come in around bedtime. They all got a bath, footy pajamas and some ravioli. By midnight everyone was in bed. . . . All in all we had sixteen kids come through SafePlace today. I’m not a super emotional person, but sometimes it takes all I have in me to keep from crying when talking to these children. It’s unfair that they are living through trauma after trauma and their childhood seems to be spoiled by an adult’s irresponsibility. I can’t forget that my God is bigger. He already has a plan for each of these precious ones.”
Calling caring families
As more and more kids come through SafePlace needing protection, our community has an unprecedented opportunity to care for them. Speaking at a CityTalks event in March, Doug Sauder, 4KIDS president and lead pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, said, “We are on a campaign of sustained public persuasion around the fact that there are vulnerable children in our community who are being abandoned. When we start to see these kids as belonging to our family – to the family of God – everything changes. . . . What does justice look like?” he asks. “It looks like a family.”
If you have ever thought about serving kids by becoming a foster parent, join 4KIDS staff and foster parents at a 4KIDS Foster Care Forum to learn about opening up your home. 4KIDS team members and foster families will share what is required and answer all of your questions.
They are hosting free forums on Saturday, May 30 from 9 – 11 a.m. at two locations: Banyan Air Service, located at 5360 NW 20th Terrace in Fort Lauderdale, and Journey Church, located at 6201 South Military Trail in Lake Worth. To register, visit 4KIDSofSFL.org.
For more articles by Shelly Pond, please visit goodnewsfl.org/author/shelly/