Do You Know What a Safe Family Is?

An Interview with Alison Morriss

In the world of orphan care, we often focus on children who already need a family. We hear about the hundreds of thousands of children living in foster care homes, institutional housing, and orphanages. We hear the call to respond, and thankfully many do.

Morriss Family

-The Morriss Family

But what if we also worked on prevention? What I mean is what if, when we think of orphan care, we also worked with at-risk families to prevent children from ever having to live in foster care or need adoption?

Wholistic Approach

I became open to a wholistic approach when we fostered our son. CPS removed him from his biological family and placed him with us as a foster only child. The goal was for reconciliation with his own family.

Yet Danielle and I were adoption motivated. That caused a tension point to say the least.

It affected the way I interacted with the biological family, how I prayed, etc.

But over time I interacted with the young parents and the extended family at family meetings and court hearings. I began to want them to succeed in what the state required of them to get their son back.

I know many times a biological family isn’t the best place for a child to grow up. But what about the times when all the family needs is someone to come alongside and mentor them?

Recently I was introduced to an organization that does just that. This organization gets involved before a child is removed by CPS or the state. It’s called Safe Families for Children.

Safe Families

I caught up with my new friend Alison Morriss, the Safe Families for Children (SFFC) Program Coordinator, for an interview about Safe Families. Please read the interview to learn more and hopefully get a different if not new perspective on caring for children from a hard place.

What is a Safe Family?

A Safe Family volunteers to care for the children of a family in need. This can be for one night or for many depending on how long it takes the biological family to get things together to provide a safe home for the children to return.

How is Safe Families for Children different from foster care or an adoption service?

The main difference–All involved do so voluntarily. The parents voluntarily give up their child. The Safe Family voluntarily keeps the child with no stipend.

Also, SFFC isn’t meant to be an adoption option. The goal is always family reconciliation.

How did you become involved with SFFC?

I have always wanted to adopt. My parents adopted a child from Colombia who is 16 years younger than me. My husband was a missionary kid in Mexico, and after we got married we moved back there to serve as missionaries. I volunteered at a Catholic orphanage.

We moved back to the States so my husband could go back to school. We lived in the suburbs of Chicago, and we began having kids. We had four girls. I never thought I would find myself living in suburbia America! I wanted to find a way to care for at risk or orphaned children.

That’s when I found SFFC in 2007. The founder, Dave Anderson is in Chicago. The ministry was just beginning. No training. No preparation. Just sign up.

Our first placement was a set of twin girls. I met Dave and the mother at a truck stop to get the girls!

Our family was now living on mission!

I worked with Dave in Chicago helping him develop the ministry. Then we moved to Houston in 2010.

I joined Lakewood church’s staff, and they began talking about launching Safe Families in Houston. Safe Family works with agencies and not directly with a church, so I met with Mark Tennant of Arrow Child and Family Services.

I went to work with Arrow in 2012 part-time to launch SFFC in Houston on a small-scale. Since 2012, SFFC has hosted about 20 kids providing around 2000 nights of care. That has saved CPS about $90,ooo by keeping them out of the custody of the state.

We moved to Austin in 2013. I continue to work part-time at Arrow to set up SFFC now in the Austin area.

How does a family volunteer with SFFC?

  1. Fill out an application – 3 references
  2. FBI fingerprints
  3. Home study, but not as in-depth as for foster care or adoption. About 2 hours with a case worker
  4. 5 hours online training and 3 hours in person training

How much interaction is there between a Safe Family and the biological family?

A SFFC volunteer is very involved with the biological family. Hopefully over time you act as an extended family member. SFFC volunteers are encouraged to have daily contact to give updates on the children. Sadly some biological parents go absent.
A Family Coach is assigned to each host family who works as a liaison. The Family Coach’s main job is to mentor the biological family while the Host or Safe Family’s main purpose is to care for the children.
 If we can bring the bio family into our lives and not be afraid, we can mentor them to be healthy families. Much more effective than a parenting classes.

How can I find out more about Safe Families?

Best thing to do is go to Safe-Families.org to get general information, and to look for what is available closest to you.

Thank You Alison for taking the time to share with us about SFFC!

You can reach Alison Morriss via email—Alison.Morriss@arrow.org

I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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