Written by Katie Brown, TFG Advocate
Together for Good exists to help mobilize the church to walk alongside families in crisis. Simply put, our goal is to provide support for families through building relationships.
On one hand, it’s extremely simple. And on the other hand, it’s a concept that many people don’t quite understand.
We’ve devoted entire staff meetings to trying to figure out the most concise way to explain what we do. And yet, no matter how we explain it, we still get the same question.
“So…you’re kind of like foster care?”
First, don’t fret if you’ve said that to us! We understand. We are trying to pave a new path, and foster care is a framework people know.
But no, we aren’t foster care. We really want to keep kids out of foster care. And the moms we serve want to keep their kids out of foster care, too.
However, if the only thing we say is, “We want to keep kids out of foster care,” it wrongly sounds like we only serve families who are on their way to foster care.
While we do serve some families in that situation, most of the families we come alongside aren’t even close to entering the child welfare system. Most of the families we serve just need a little extra support.
So today, in keeping with our theme for the year – “Learn to do good” – let’s learn a term that some professionals who work with vulnerable children use: “continuum of care.”
Our friends at Faith To Action Initiative have put together this image to explain the concept.
A very general understanding of the “continuum of care” will help you to understand Together for Good’s mission, as it’s one of the best frameworks we can use to describe what exactly we do. Although we aren’t foster care, we know many of you are familiar with that system, so let’s start by using foster care to very simply explain the continuum of care.
First, imagine a road. It’s called “Continuum of Care Road.”
(It might look something like this…winding…confusing…with multiple switchbacks…it’s not an easy route.)
A child has been harmed and is now entering the foster care system – they’re now on a stretch of the Continuum of Care Road.
Decisions made along the way are intersections that could mean a different turn along that road.
The county where the family lives will first look to see if it is an option for the child to remain with the parents with some type of support. But they may determine that it is no longer safe for the child to be at home at all, so the county will then have to make plans for the interim, which would bring the child to the next intersection.
Is there is extended family or kinship care available for the child? If so, the child can stay there. If not, the child goes to another intersection, where the county looks for foster families that would be a good fit to care for the child temporarily.
There are court dates along the way, and at each one of these is another intersection where the situation is revisited.
If reunification is not a possibility, the county then makes a permanency plan. However, professionals know the continuum of care starts much earlier than the day the child enters foster care.
The continuum of care doesn’t start when a child is harmed. The road is much, much longer. This is where Together for Good comes in.
Together for Good sits on the Continuum of Care Road, but we are sitting at intersections way before the foster care stretch.
For most of the families we serve, we are many intersections back. For some of the families we serve, we are just a few intersections away.
Our goal is to get a family onto a new path before they get to that intersection where a child is harmed. We want that child safe and to keep the family together. We are one of the first stops along the way, working on what experts call “family preservation.”
Our mission to preserve the family doesn’t negate the need for the other stops on the road, but we do have a significant role to play.
We believe we can keep families from needing to go further down the road toward foster care!
If this is the first time you have heard or thought about this, you’re not alone. However, we believe God is teaching all of us something new. He’s teaching us that preserving the family, helping others, loving our neighbors is the answer to bringing healing to the hurting and broken in our communities.
Organizations all over the world are beginning to work on family preservation strategies.
Ministries that have been operating orphanages or group homes for years are now completely restructuring their ministries to focus on doing what they can to keep families together and serve families in need more holistically.
It is often much less complex to step in to help stabilize a family early on than it is to wait until a mom is unable to provide for her child and keep them safe.
Family preservation saves a family major long-lasting trauma.
So what would it look like for people in the church to be ready to step in at the beginning of the Continuum of Care road?
When an already vulnerable mom arrives at an intersection where she loses her job, she can have the option to make a positive choice to help keep her family stable.
If a medical or mental health crisis pops up, her kids can stay with the friends she’s made through Together for Good instead of leaving them with strangers. Or if she’s struggling with addiction, she can now choose treatment with confidence and peace, knowing her kiddos will be well cared for.
Being many stops back means a mom is empowered and supported.
It means children aren’t harmed.
It means the church is being refined and helping to alleviate her social isolation by doing the relational work they do best.
And with TFG, professional staff members will be there to help coach everyone through the crisis.
Above all, it means a family is preserved by taking a gentle turn along the road toward true healing, stability and hope.
This is the entire reason why Together for Good exists.
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