Foster Care and Safe Families for Children: What’s the Difference?


It is important for families to understand the differences between these two services which care for children from birth through age 17.

Every day, children and teenagers are removed from their birthfamilies for various reasons such as: neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Foster care is most often the best and necessary option for them as the legal system evaluates the parents’ abilities to care for their children. The goal, however, is always reunification—returning children to the care of their own families. But if that is not possible, the goal is adoption into a loving, forever home. Either way, Bethany’s Foster Care program exists to provide children with a caring and nurturing environment and to train the foster parents who provide that care.

While foster care may be the answer in many cases, there are sometimes situations when circumstances have not quite escalated to the point where it is necessary.  Often, crises are sudden and related to a parental medical issue, depression, income loss, or homelessness. Then on top of the crisis itself, it becomes difficult or impossible for a parent to properly care for their children while they address their situation. Those parents need help—and they need it right away, before abuse or neglect begin. The answer may be Safe Families for ChildrenTM (SFFC), a ministry that screens and trains Christian host families to care for children while their parents get back on their feet.

Children in both circumstances need a loving and nurturing place to feel safe and secure. But it’s important for those in need, as well as those who might refer them to Bethany, to understand the differences between these two services that care for children from birth through age 17.

  • A child in foster care has become a ward of the state. Children staying in a SFFC home remain under the full custody of their parents. SFFC is not adoption or even foster care; it is temporary care until parents can once again safely care for their children on their own.
  • A foster placement is most often much lengthier than temporary SFFC assistance because of the severity of the parent’s circumstances. The average stay with an SFFC family is forty-five days, though it can be less or more depending on the need.
  • Foster parents receive a monthly stipend as well as medical and dental coverage from the State to assist with the longer-term expenses required for a child’s care. SFFC host families receive no payment for providing temporary care. They simply want and are able, in the name of Christ, to help children and their parents in crisis.

There will always be a need for traditional, loving, and safe foster care for children who need a place to live when their birthparents are unable to provide a home. And, increasingly, there is a need for parents in sudden crisis to receive stop-gap support when their children simply need a safe, loving, and temporary place to stay.

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