When I first became aware of the lawsuit filed to block New York from regulating and permitting host families to support families in crisis, I was extremely shocked and appalled. I thought how could an organization like Lawyers for Children, which claims to care about children, be against an initiative that seeks to support children and families?
Mothers today are under an enormous amount of stress and pressure. They need resources they can pull from that do not always include family or friends. Not everyone has that luxury in this day and age: as baby boomers are retiring at later ages, grandparents are no longer available to watch their grandchildren. Families are spread apart, often living in different states, cities or even countries. This leaves parents with fewer resources when it comes to affordable, reliable child care or respite for short-term stays when it is needed.
I was first introduced to Safe Families for Children NYC after leaving an abusive relationship. I was three months pregnant with my second child and mother to an 11-month-old girl. I do not have a lot of family except for my mother, who is retired with health issues, and a sister who suffers from a disability. I was nervous to meet someone new and to even ask for help since I was so used to doing everything for myself.
I was surprised at how friendly and knowledgeable the organization’s “Family Friend” was when I first met her. From our first encounter, she greeted me with open arms and made me feel like one of the family. She helped me bring my daughter to art and music class once a week on Saturdays. Soon our friendship and trust grew to the point where we began to meet more frequently and talk and pray every day.
The organization assigned me a second Family Friend once my second daughter was born, who would assist me a couple times a week by doing daycare drop-off for my older child. This help was invaluable as I was recovering, and it allowed me to become a better mom by providing my children with resources. It also created an extended family of people with whom my children share love and celebrate birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.
The services that Safe Families for Children provides for mothers are invaluable. They are more than just an agency, they are a community and sometimes a second family. This is especially important for those of us who may not have any family or relatives nearby — or very little family. Safe Families for Children NYC provides wonderful Family Friends — and in over 30 states across the country, host homes as well. These are homes with volunteers who have been trained and thoroughly checked (background, fingerprints, criminal history) who can help care for children, without compensation, on a short-term basis.
Blocking these kinds of host family programs will do more harm than good. I hope that agencies like Safe Families for Children can proceed with providing host family support for overwhelmed parents. Mothers who just need short term help do not need the government involved nor the scrutiny of a Gestapo-style child service organization.
These mothers are already stressed enough. The last thing they need on their already full plate is the fear of who is going to take care of their children — or worse, losing their children to a system that has already proved to be more detrimental to children than good. Especially for Black and brown families.