Being a Host Home is a powerful way to support and show love to families in times of crisis. Here are some of the most common questions we get when it comes to hosting. If you have a question we didn’t answer here, please contact us and we’ll be sure to get you an answer right away.
Why are families referred/use SFFC?
Parents come to Safe Families for many different reasons. Our biggest reasons for referrals in DC are medical instability, homelessness, and general lack of supports. For example, if a parent needs to be hospitalized but has no one to care for her/his children, they can reach out to Safe Families for support. The whole goal of Safe Families to is surround families who lack supports so they can get back on their feet and cope with difficult life situations.
What do I have to do before I can be a Host Home?
Every Host Home first fills out our standard volunteer paperwork and an application, and then complete a FBI Background and Child Protection Registry check. While we’re waiting for your CPR check to come back (it takes up to a month), you attend a 6-hour training where we cover the basics of hosting, how to care for a child who has been through a hard situation, and general child safety procedures. After your training, one of our staff members will come to your house to see your home and discuss your hosting preferences. We work hard to ensure every hosting is a good fit, both for the family we’re serving and for you. All forms and more detailed information can be found here.
Do I have to be married to host?
Nope! You can be married or single, live alone or have roommates. We ask people to think creatively about our hosting arrangements- you don’t always have to have an extra room, or stay at home during the day. We bring a network of volunteers around every host home to support you so you don’t feel alone throughout this process.
Do I have to have an extra room/bed to host?
You don’t have to have an extra room to host. For respite hosting (1-4 prearranged days a month) you don’t need an extra room or even a bed (we’ll find an air mattress). For longer placements, a child needs his/her own bed.
Can I work full time while hosting? Where do children go during the day?
You don’t have to be stay at home to host, in fact, most people don’t. Children either attend school during the day, or we work with centers to provide daycare. We can also help you develop a plan with our transportation team to assist with pick-ups and drop-offs.
How long do children stay with host families?
Nationally, the average stay is 45 days, however, we see multiple types of hosting arrangements. Sometimes a family is just looking for respite care, which is 1-4 prearranged days a month so that they can get a break and take care of other areas that need their attention. Other times, families need a Host Home for a few weeks or months. The length of stay depends on the family’s goals and how long it may take to achieve them. We always contact host families prior to the placement and explain the situation them to see if they are comfortable and able to host a child at that time. We give families as much information as possible (including estimated length of stay) before they commit to hosting.
How do children get to/from school or daycare?
It is the Host Home’s responsibility to care of the child’s needs while they are staying in their home, and this includes attending school. We try to place children with families close to where their school is, but sometimes that’s not possible. That’s why we have a team of volunteers willing to help provide transportation to and from school to give the host families a break, when needed.
What happens legally while I host the children?
Biological parents retain all their legal rights during the hosting arrangement- that’s part of what makes Safe Families so great. However, Host Homes are also given short-term legal guardianship and medical waivers so they can care for children in the case of an emergency. We have all the legal forms to protect families and children from harm.
What happens if I have an overnight trip scheduled? Or a vacation?
Everyone has things planned and we certainly don’t want you to rework your entire schedule in order to host. There are a few different options that primarily depend on your comfort level and the nature of your trip. If you and the children’s parents are willing, you are able to take host children on vacations and trips. If this isn’t something you’re able to do, we have secondary Host Homes that can assist you while you are away. They can host children until you return from your trip. We also record all pre-planned vacations that you may have in order to plan and work around them as much as possible.
Who can babysit?
You can provide your own babysitter or use ones that we already have. All of our babysitters do get a background check through an instant system. We can also use other background checks if they have done one in the past (i.e. work at a school, volunteer with a children’s ministry). If you know of friends or family members who would like to babysit, we are happy to background check up to 3 of them for free. After that it’s $15.00 per babysitter for the background check. Again, if you don’t know people who could babysit, we have a list of awesome people who are willing to help out in times of need.
Can I take the children I host to church?
We work to respect all religious preferences of the families we serve. When we explain Safe Families, we’re sure to explain that we recruit through churches and we ask the parents if they are comfortable with this and with their child attending church. We expect Host Homes to honor the preference and requests of parents, but do not frequently have situations where parents are uncomfortable with children attending church.
Can I request to host within a certain age range?
Yes- in fact, this is something we ask you about when we visit your home. We want the best hosting arrangement for both the child and you, and so it’s important to us that you feel comfortable. We also provide training, so if you’re uncomfortable with a certain age range because you don’t know how to care for a young child or a teen, we’re happy to teach you.
Do I have to be able to take more than one child?
We work really hard to keep siblings together, so if you can host more than one child at a time, please do. However, we have plenty of situations where being able to take one child is incredibly needed. Being able to host more than one child is not required.
What about costs related to hosting? Is there a stipend?
All of our Host Homes are done on a purely volunteer basis, but we work very hard to provide a lot of support so that you’re never alone. We have supplies and clothes on hand so that when your hosting starts, we can help set you up. In the past we’ve also had volunteers bring meals at the beginning and throughout placements, donate gift cards for date nights, babysit for free, and donate services like hair care. You can also always be honest to your Family Coach about what support you need, and we’ll do our best to find it.
Who do I talk to if I have a problem while I’m hosting?
Each Host Home is assigned a Family Coach, and the Family Coach is there to make sure that you have the support you need, that the children remain safe, and that the children’s parents have what they need to move forward. Your Family Coach will check in with you on a regular basis, and we work hard to match Coaches and Host Homes who attend the same church.
We hope we answered your questions, but in case you still have some more or just want to talk to one of our staff about being a Host Home, you can contact us here.
And if you’re interested in taking the next step in hosting, click here for more details!