Safe Families for Children Scotland has officially entered into a partnership with Midlothian Council, expanding their work to help prevent more children from entering the care system.
Since beginning work in Edinburgh in October 2014, Safe Families has benefited 122 children by connecting volunteers from local churches to families who are isolated and who are struggling to cope with the daily pressures of life. Safe Families hopes to offer support to 60 families in Midlothian over 2 years.
Jennifer, one of the first families Safe Families worked with in Scotland, said about her experience, ‘I knew my son had something to look forward to, and I had something to look forward to. I started getting up. I started getting myself dressed every day. I got myself a job. At one point last year, I was in my bed all the time because I was feeling depressed. It brought me out of that.’
Safe Families volunteers might take children overnight to give overwhelmed parents time to rest; befriend a mum or child to offer emotional support and a listening ear; or take care of practical needs around the house like gardening or organising a messy room so families have one less thing to worry about. Safe Families support is flexible, depending on the needs of the family and the skills and availability of volunteers.
Sean Bell, Service Manager for Children and Families Practice Teams in Edinburgh, said, ‘Many of the parents we deal with are hampered by their social isolation and lack of extended family support. They just do not have anyone who can take their kids for a weekend or an afternoon, or someone to give them a new washing machine when they most need it, or build up some flat-packed furniture. Safe Families for Children is filling these gaps.’
Right now, there are over 15,000 children in care in Scotland, and the number entering care increases every year. This partnership reflects an important focus shift in Midlothian – away from reactionary services and toward prevention. Safe Families is strengthening families to foster home environments that help children thrive.