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County will join forces with Safe Families for Oregon on a pilot program to identify families that would be better served through the alternative

Yamhill is among the dozen Oregon counties that have joined forces with the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) and Safe Families for Oregon on a collaborative, three-year pilot program with the goal of providing an alternative to the state's foster care system.

To that end the two entities will join forces to train screening staff, caseworkers and supervisors to ensure they can identify and prioritize families who would be better served by Safe Families, a national movement designed to "surround families in crisis with a caring, compassionate community," a release said. The volunteer-driven movement, with more than 100 chapters across the United States and Great Britain, was founded in 2003 by Dr. David Anderson.

"It creates an extended family through a community of devoted volunteers who are motivated by faith to keep children safe and families intact," the release said. "Safe, loving homes are provided where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while (they) seek to restore stability in their lives."

The organization partners with churches, community agencies and volunteer families, as well as some government organizations. Host families care for children in their homes for durations as short as a day or as long as six months, with the average stay about 27 days, officials said. The children also have access to the organization's volunteer network, which offers additional support through coaches, friends and other resources.

"DHS is thrilled to be working in partnership with the local Safe Families for Children chapter and Lutheran Community Services Northwest to provide additional support for children and families in our community," said Stacy Lake, district manager for self-sufficiency and child welfare programs for Yamhill, Marion and Polk counties. "Foster care is a last resort for children when families are stressed to the point of being unable to keep them safe. Preventing children and families from reaching this point takes all of us. Safe Families for Children is just one way people can help their neighbors in need."

Since January, Safe Families has hosted children for a total of 454 nights in Yamhill County, according to the release, which added that by doing so the program saved the state more than $10,000 per month as it costs, on average, about $23 a night to remove a child from their home and place them in foster care.

Although 12 churches and 17 homes have stepped up to host children in Yamhill County, the organization is looking for more help. The program is seeking additional host churches, volunteers, host families and other support. Those wishing to help may visit www.safe-families.org, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 971-312-2624.

"Safe Families provides a structure through which we can care for those among us experiencing deep need, a way we can surround one another with support and help to hold each other up," said the Rev. Erika Marksbury of First Baptist Church in McMinnville. "It's a chance for us to really live out what we say we value – care and generosity and the responsibility a whole community carries for the well-being of all of its children – in ways that make a visible, tangible, immediate difference right here in Yamhill County. I'm excited for our community to grow even more compassionate and even more connected, as Safe Families takes root here."


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