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Kiwanis Club : Bethany Christian Services helps keep families ... - Cleveland Daily Banner

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By SARALYN NORKUS This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In their most recent meeting, the Cleveland Kiwanis Club learned about the mission of Bethany Christian Services.

BCS, which is a national organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., started operations in the Scenic City in 1982. Since then, two more offices have been opened in Knoxville and Nashville, leaving the Chattanooga office to serve a 60-mile radius in Tennessee and north Georgia.

“We serve 11 counties in Tennessee and five in north Georgia,” Executive Director Amy Scott said.

The organization is most commonly recognized for its domestic and international adoption services, but their mission also includes helping keep families together.

“We like to bring families together and keep them together,” Scott declared.

Scott explained in April 2015, BCS began its “Safe Families for Children” (SFFC) program.

SFFC gives parents who are going through a “temporary crisis” a safe option to care for their children without child protective services becoming involved.

A parent who is going through a crisis will sign a power of attorney for a family to host their child for a certain time.

“Many of these families are in crisis because they don’t have a support system,” Scott explained.

She continued the BCS and the SFFC program are working to become that support system for those families.

According to Scott, children could spend just a few days or even months with the host family, but the average length of a stay is 30 to 45 days.

The child lives with the host family while their parent(s) work out their issues. The host families are strictly volunteers and there is no financial gain for them in SFFC. Those families are screened, trained and equipped by BCS to serve the children in their care.

There are three objectives for SFFC:

1. Keep children safe during a family emergency

2. Provide a proactive alternative to foster care and

3. Support, stabilize and reunite the family.

SFFC can benefit parents who are going through a variety of situations, such as serious financial issues, loss of housing or employment, sudden illness or injury, postpartum depression, drugs/alcohol rehab and many other crisis situations.

“We’re not providing free day care,” Scott commented. “There has to be a goal and progress made toward that goal.”

“They are able to have peace knowing their children are well cared for during their time of crisis. It gives them the peace of mind to accomplish what they need for long-term success, knowing that their kids are cared for.”

While the child is with the host family, phone calls and visits to neutral areas are allowed and encouraged.

Through SFFC, the organization is working to help stop issues before they become serious enough to bring in child protective services.

“A lot of kids have needs, but they aren’t significant enough to make them qualify for foster car— those kids are kind of left languishing and waiting for something bad enough to happen,” Scott explained.

“It’s important because we’re preventing child abuse. I like to talk about it like we’re hitting it when it’s a spark and not waiting until it’s a forest fire. We can get involved early on and help to remedy (the situation) before the child has to experience greater trauma in their life.”

Out of 40 families that have been involved in the program so far, only one has seen the child not return to its family.

BCS currently has some host families in Bradley County, but Scott would love to see the number increase.

“We would love to have 10 to 15 to start, with 20 being the ultimate goal.”

In order to be successful in the area, BCS needs local churches to become involved.

“We need a couple of churches to step up and say they’re willing to be the umbrella for those volunteers. We’ll come in and do all of the training,” she added.

For more information about Bethany Christian Services and the “Safe Families for Children” visit https://www.bethany.org/chattanooga. Churches or individuals who are interested in volunteering can reach Scott at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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