Guest post by Safe Families for Children, a program of 4Kids of South Florida. Safe Families for Children is a national movement of compassion that gives hope to families in crisis. Safe, loving homes are provided where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while parents seek to restore stability in their lives. www.4kidsofsfl.org; www.safe-families.org).
Maria, a single mom with two young boys—Steve and Ryan—called the Safe Families office in desperation. Not only was she living at a homeless shelter that she would soon have to leave, but she was pregnant with her third child. The homeless shelter told her she had a week to find alternative housing for her and the boys. Tears streamed down her face as she met with Safe Families staff, deeply upset but glad that her boys would have a safe place to stay.
Safe Families staff quickly contacted the Rena family, a couple without children of their own who were a newly certified Safe Family. The Renas called Maria and visited the homeless shelter several times before placement in order to ease Maria’s fears and make the boys’ transition to their home as smooth as possible. Despite Maria’s anxiety over their situation, she placed her boys with the Rena family, knowing they would be well cared for.
As the boys had been previously abused by their father, the Renas soon realized that there were behavioral challenges to address. However, Maria and the Renas worked together to provide the stability and consistency the boys needed. Staff helped the Renas in problem-solving and the Renas soon realized the extent of the joys and pains of parenting. Yet they were determined to continue loving Steve and Ryan, knowing how much the boys needed them.
Meanwhile, Maria lived in various friends’ homes until giving birth to a beautiful baby girl named Ana. Soon after Ana’s birth, Maria found a place she could afford to rent. Some local church volunteers provided her with a washing machine and some furniture. Another volunteer named Sarah took Maria shopping for professional clothes that she could wear to job interviews. Sarah also shared in Maria’s excitement when Maria called her one day to let her know she got a job.
While Ryan and Steve often called and visited their mom, they deeply missed her. As the three-month placement neared its end, the Renas made a countdown chart for the boys as they eagerly anticipated going home. Maria and her boys are together again and yet the story continues to unfold. The boys consistently see the Renas, as the Renas make it a point to take them to fun activities.
Strangers have become friends and lifelong memories have been formed. While life continues to bring its challenges, Maria and her children were given a chance to start afresh and there is hope for a better and brighter future.