Jennifer has a word of encouragement for parents in crisis: Don’t be afraid to trust others for help. Safe Families for Children™ (SFFC), a ministry of Bethany Christian Services, can help families make it through the toughest of times.
Jennifer knows. Having survived some of the most desperate circumstances imaginable for a single mother, today she, her 2-year-old son, Amon, and her baby daughter, Aaliyah, are a happy, thriving family. But they would never have made it without the assistance SFFC provides.
In early 2011, shortly after moving to Georgia, Jennifer suffered a severe health breakdown. Unable to work full-time, she fell behind on her rent, and in April, after a ten-day hospitalization for a life-threatening heart condition, she found herself homeless upon discharge. She was 26 years old and still far from well. She was five months pregnant by Amon’s father, who left after Jennifer refused to abort her second pregnancy. She was all alone. And she was terrified. What would become of her, Amon, and her unborn baby?
With Amon still in Virginia where he stayed with her parents during her hospitalization, Jennifer slept that night at a mission and was told to leave at 5:00 the next morning. “I returned to work [as a part-time bookkeeper],” she said, “and for days slept in my office after everyone had left.”
Once she got paid, Jennifer retrieved Amon. But scared to tell her parents of her circumstances, she returned with her son to Georgia, and the two lived at a homeless shelter for several months. There she learned of a free daycare center, which provided the help Jennifer needed to land full-time employment. In due course, she and Amon moved into a new residence.
Knowing that she would need someone to care for Amon while she was having her baby, a caseworker at the daycare center gave Jennifer a Bethany Christian Services brochure about SFFC. “I tossed the brochure to the side, reluctant to let a stranger care for my baby,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer made arrangements for a friend to care for Amon while she was in the hospital, paying a sum that strained her carefully planned budget in exchange for the security of knowing that Amon was with someone she knew. She vowed to take care of both of her children on her own once she was home.
But when Aaliyah was born in October, further health issues caused her to be placed on bed rest and prevented her from being able to care for Amon, an active toddler. “Amon deserved to run outside and play and be a happy, healthy 2-year- old,” Jennifer observed. She realized that she needed to reach out and call Bethany.
“Bethany Christian Services was wonderful. They were kind, caring, and patient. They took the time to explain the extensive background checks they had to perform on a candidate. They gave me thorough information about the host mother they had for Amon. It was like I already knew her before I walked in the room to meet her face-to-face.”
The next day, Jennifer met with her SFFC family coach and Kathy, the woman who would care for Amon for the next thirty days. “They made me feel comfortable. We had an hour to talk everything over and get paperwork signed, and I was able to watch Kathy interact with Amon.”
Reassured that she could get Amon back at any time and confident that Kathy would take excellent care of him, Jennifer watched them drive away.
Amon loved being in Kathy’s house. “Kathy had a crib and toys and everything together before he arrived,” Jennifer said. “We communicated daily about his adjustment, and I frequently spoke with Amon to tell him goodnight.”
A month later, with her health improved and Aaliyah a little older, Jennifer resumed care for Amon as well. Today, Jennifer and her children are doing beautifully.
“Fear can drive us from help,” Jennifer said, “but the staff at Bethany Christian Services makes the process so comfortable. You can sleep well knowing that your children are safe, loved, and wanted. These [host families] are people who out of the kindness of their hearts decided to help out. Thank you, Bethany Christian Services.”