We are so pleased to partner with you to serve and protect these young people. The students we serve are boys and girls ages 12-24 and are attending school or in the process of returning to the classroom.
Our Safe Families Program works with community members who are willing to open their homes to these homeless students. This handbook aims to answer your questions on how our program works, and how you as a community member can partner with us.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDENTS WE SERVE
These youth that we serve are not your typical students, they come from many situations and varied degrees of brokenness. Most are used to relying only on themselves and it is hard to understand why strangers would care when their own flesh and blood may not. They are hungry and tired but will not ask for assistance because they are afraid to ask for too much or they won’t get anything. These students have been sleeping in the woods, in cars, or on friends couches or floors. Even if they have been living inside on a couch they probably have not asked or received food, a shower, etc. These youth are resilient and still get up and go to school each day because they know education is their way out and the only thing they can control.
WHO CAN BE A HOST FAMILY
Anyone is eligible to be a host family as long as they have a bedroom available and the finances to be able to provide room and board for the student. We have an extensive application process to protect the students and our Safe Families, but once you and the students complete this process, you can begin helping these students find hope. If you are in a rental, please make sure that your landlord is in approval of your taking in a student.
WHAT IS THE APPLICATION PROCESS
All potential host families are required to fill out an application and will go through a comprehensive background check process. The home is inspected for safety for the youth and an interview process commences. Discussions about gun safety, alcohol storage, and prescription drugs will be included in the “In-Home” training that each host family receives from a trained staff member. This process is extensive for the safety of the students as well as for our Safe Families who volunteer to help.
AGE AND GENDER
A host family can determine the age range and gender of the student they are willing to house. Some homes already have biological children in them or they may consist of a single woman or man, with these considerations a student is placed in an appropriate home where everyone is comfortable and safe.
CARE72 – EMERGENCY CARE
Host families may choose the length of stay they are willing to provide, but we ask that all host families be willing to house at a minimum of three to seven days. This gives our students a chance to regroup after a usually traumatic separation from their current living situation. Short term families are trained to be emergency placements with the understanding that these students will be transitioning into another more permanent situation. These placements will happen without prior meeting of the student, but are guided by a trained staff member who will assist with the transition. Host families who desire to be emergency placements will be well trained in the emotional and social aspects that these types of youth experience. Youth mental first aid and rights
These placements can last from 2 weeks to 2 years or even longer if you wish and are able. We do ask for people to consider housing a student for the rest of their school year so that their education is not disrupted. Our goal is always reconciliation between the students and their own families, but in some instances where there can not be any reconciliation, some Safe Families may wish to continue to care for the student even longer through their college years. That will be up to the students and your family if you wish to continue a students care. Safe Families may quit the host family program whenever they desire, we just ask for a minimum of two weeks to locate a new home, unless there is a discipline issue, then the student will be removed immediately.
WHEN WOULD YOU RECEIVE A STUDENT
Most commonly the application process takes 2 weeks once the student is introduced. In the case of a crisis, the process can be rushed in 2 or 3 days. If a host family is wanting to do emergency care, the “move in” time is immediate (see emergency care). If you are wanting to be a long term host family, then you will go through a series of interviews. First, in a public place where the student and host family can get to know each other where it is more comfortable, then, if both parties want to move forward, the student will meet the potential host family in their home.
Host families biggest concerns stem from the issue of liability. Host families are required to provide SafeKids proof of both their homeowners and vehicle insurance. Once a student steps over the host family’s threshold, they are considered a visitor of that home. If anything should occur, the above insurance policies should cover the students. Students under the age of 18 living in a host family are still under the legal responsibility of their permanent guardian. Host families are not permanent legal guardians. Students 18 and older are legally responsible for their actions and will be dealt with as adults.
PERMISSION FOR TRAVEL
Once the permanent guardian has signed the permission form, the host family is permitted to travel within the state. If a host family desires to take that student on a trip outside of the state or country, another specific travel form needs to be filled out by the permanent legal guardian. All students over 18 do not need this form.
Discipline is difficult with new host students because they have been on their own for so long that they are not used to checking in or even having anyone care how their day was. There is a Safe Families discipline policy that is given each host family so that they can feel that they are not alone and backed up in situations of discipline.
Once a student is placed in a host family there are expectations on both sides about, chores, homework, curfew, etc. Curfew tends to be the biggest issue for most host homes. Students who have been on their own are not used to being home at a specific time and most do not have cell phones to even call. SafeKids can provide a minute cell phone and minutes to aid in this issue, but it does take time and a lot of communication between all parties and a lot of patience for curfew to no longer be an issue.
All students are required to be in school or working toward returning to school in some fashion to remain in the host family program. We know that some students have been out for some time due to illnesses or relocating, etc. so for these students it is tough to transition back. Some students have learning struggles and need extra help. SafeKids can assist with the school, provide tutoring, support a student and advocate for accommodations, etc. Host families who have long term placements will slowly work into being additional school supports for their host students.
Transportation can be worked out quite easily through SafeKids partnership with the homeless liaisons in the school districts. Students are guaranteed transportation to and from school. Sports, jobs and after school events are not covered by the school transportation department. Safe Kids can help by providing rides to doctors appointments and other non-daily events. Host families will have to work with the student and Safe Kids to cover any transportation issues that can’t be covered by any other agencies.
SafeKids partners with support groups and the school districts homeless liaisons to provide school supplies. The McKinney-Vento act (the federal mandate supporting homeless youth) allows for student fees to be waived, such as sports fees, lab fees, etc.
CLOTHING / TOILETRIES
SafeKids provides clothing of all kinds from pajamas and underwear to jeans and dresses plus toiletry items to host students to help eliminate these costs from the host family. Formal attire for formal dances and interview clothing can also be obtained through SafeKids.
SafeKids offers mediation services to both host families and biological families. Within a host home communication is a difficult thing. Host families are not sure how to bring up tough subjects and the host student is ALWAYS scared that they will be expelled from a host home as they were expelled or not wanted in their last home. Biological families can cause strife within the life of a student, whether they are living with their biological family or not, so knowing that struggles between all of these important people in a students life can cause added stress, SafeKids offers a safe way for feelings to be shared by all parties.
SafeKids offers counseling services through ***Mediate and Restore. Students who do not already have a mental health professional can be seen through this resource at no cost to the host family.
SafeKids will have in-depth case management for all students they serve. SafeKids offers host families 24/7 on call support for families and students through, phone, text, email, etc. Safe Kids provides student support with FAFSA applications, Social Security, DMV, and other processes through these and other state and federal departments. SafeKids staff work with support in the areas of juvenile justice, mentoring, tutoring, counseling, etc. Students are supported with doctors and schools when a supportive adult is needed. SafeKids encourages host families to work alongside the SafeKids staff as much as possible to create a positive living environment for all. The support that is offered is not offered solely to the student. The SafeKids staff are there for mediation, training and counseling to the host family as much as the family is in need or desire of.