LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday passed legislation spearheaded by state Sen. Peter MacGregor that will establish protections and other legal provisions so that nonprofit organizations that provide temporary child care for parents experiencing crisis can continue to operate without government interference.
Safe Families for Children (Safe Families) is a program that surrounds families experiencing crisis with a caring, compassionate community. It’s not an alternative to foster care; instead, Safe Families is a purely voluntary program meant to support a parent who may be facing unforeseen circumstances.
Safe Families is a private organization with a network of volunteers who open their homes to families in need. The program, partnered with a family service agency, temporarily places children into homes that can provide stable care and support to any child, whether the parent is hospitalized with illness, has extended travel for employment or military deployment or is in severe need for some other reason.
“Sometimes parents or guardians go through a crisis that renders them unable to provide care for a short period of time,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “In the past, extended family, neighbors, or their faith community stepped in to help families in crisis by caring for their children for short periods of time.”
“Today, sadly, many families are socially isolated, and their extended family is unavailable or unable to help. This is where Safe Families can step in and provide a safe home for these parents in crisis. The beauty of a program like Safe Families is that oftentimes the host family is able to provide mentoring long after the initial stay.”
Every volunteer host family who participates in the Safe Families program must complete mandatory training in addition to a thorough background check and home visit.
The legislation adjusts legal language to differentiate between foster care and Safe Families and protect private programs like these from government interference. MacGregor’s bill specifically would provide program safety requirements like certification, background checks and basic child care training for host families, regular home inspections, and the power for parents to delegate temporary guardianship of children.
While a process already exists for delegating power of attorney to care for a minor child, the creation of the Safe Families for Children Act will further clarify the rights of the parents in these situations.
“Programs like this not only save the state money by keeping children out of foster care, but they provide more compassionate solutions to what otherwise might become crisis situations,” MacGregor said. “No parent wants to be away from their child, but it’s comforting to know that programs like Safe Families exist should a situation arise where it is necessary.”
The bill package will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.