Roughly 3,000 children in Marion County are in need of family services, whether it’s through foster parents or relative care.
Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth (SAFY) helps license foster families, and then provides resources to them and children. SAFY fields 100 calls each week requesting placement homes for these youth in need. The regional SAFY office is located in Marion County and supports families throughout Central Indiana.
Meli Barber, therapeutic foster care program manager of SAFY, explains how the organization helps children and families.
What is the goal of SAFY?
When we think about foster care, we’re thinking about working with children to establish permanency, safety and well-being. We have those three primary goals: We want our children to achieve permanency as quickly as possible, we want them to have a safe home environment, and we want our children to be healthy, happy whole beings. We added one specific goal post and that’s helping kids recover from trauma.
How do you provide help to families?
The biggest thing is we do is provide training. Most importantly, SAFY creates a community to support the foster family. It’s important for foster parents to have a community of people who understand the unique joys and challenges that come with that role. SAFY hosts a monthly “Family Night” for all of our foster parents where we share a meal together, help foster parents meet their annual training requirements and give the parents time to talk and build community. We also provide supportive services to the families, helping our families navigate the system and understand the process. Someone from SAFY is on call 24/7 so that families can always reach us if they need something any time of the day or night.
Who can become a foster parent?
Almost anyone over the age of 21. A lot of our families have biological children. Biological children play a huge role. They are open members of the family and can help make a foster child feel comfortable in the home. It can help them draw the children out of their shell. We’re about strengthening the whole family. The number of LGBT families continues to grow. I think that’s a hallmark that distinguishes us.
What is most rewarding about being involved with SAFY?
I just really love working with the children and seeing the way that they grow and change in the time they spend with their families. Seeing a child come in the first day and be very quiet, not wanting to speak or play, then going with that child in the same foster home weeks or months later and they’re playing with children in the home. That’s really rewarding.
Aside from becoming a foster parent, are there other ways to help?
Being a foster parent is not the right fit for everyone. We’re always looking for volunteers in the office, providing childcare for the family nights and donations. Suitcases, clothing, games, art supplies and monetary donations are also needed. Case workers will bring a game or a craft to meet with a child and help them feel comfortable. To donate, visit the SAFY Indianapolis office or safy.org.