Safe Families for Children (SFFC)

About This Program

Target Population: Parents in crisis and their children from birth to 18 years of age who are in need of safe place to temporarily live

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 18

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 18

Program Overview

Safe Families for Children (SFFC) serves parents of any age by supporting them through temporary hosting of children, mentoring, and friendship through a network of approved volunteer families. Minor children ages 0 to 18 are eligible for hosting with the consent of the parent, and some host families are willing to host a single parent and child together in their home. In order to qualify for services, a parent must be experiencing a crisis such as homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence, medical problems, incarceration, parental stress, or another situation that makes it difficult for the parent to adequately and safely care for their child. The parent must be willing to comply with requirements and sign the necessary consent forms allowing the Host Family to care for the child, must be willing to maintain contact with the child and work for the child to be returned home, and the crisis presented should be able to be resolved in a reasonable amount of time (less than six months) unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Program Goals

The goals of Safe Families for Children (SFFC) are:

  • Deflect entrance of the family into the child welfare system
  • Prevent abuse or neglect of the children in the family
  • Support and stabilize the family
  • Strengthen the family's protective factors

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Safe Families for Children (SFFC).

Essential Components

The essential components of Safe Families for Children (SFFC) include:

  • Hires the following staff to implement and run the Safe Families for Children program:
    • Family Coach Supervisor
      • Oversees Family Coaches
      • Requires a Master's in Social Work, Counseling, or a related Social Services degree
    • Volunteer recruiter
      • Experience recruiting volunteers
    • Family Coach (can be volunteer or paid)
      • Bach and 1-year experience or lived experience
  • Hosting: Provides safe, loving homes where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while they seek to restore stability in their lives
    • Partners with churches, local community agencies, volunteer families, and government organizations
      • Must involve a child-placing agency in either implementing SFFC or in supervising another entity that is implementing SFFC
        • Ensures proper vetting of volunteers
        • Ensures home assessments are completed that meet national best practice guidelines
        • Ensures proper monitoring of children placed with host families
      • Receives referrals from child protection or other community agencies working with at-risk families
      • Retains full parental rights with the parents of the children
      • Obtains necessary paperwork (e.g., limited power of attorney) from parents for emergencies
    • Connects parents with volunteers (i.e., serve without compensation) known as a Host Family who:
      • Opens their home temporarily to children of parents who need to get back on their feet
      • Volunteers to be a host family through their church community
      • Passes a screening and approval process completed by the child-placing agency
      • Returns children to biological parent immediately upon request
      • Makes decisions for the children's care in case of a medical or other emergency but includes parents in all decisions
      • Maintains open communication and frequent visits with the parent throughout the arrangement
        • Contacts parent at least weekly
        • Shares information about the child
        • Develops a relationship with the placing parent
    • Recruits the volunteer Family Coach(es) who:
      • Monitors the safety of the child in the Host Family home
      • Conducts home visits within 48 hours of the start of hosting, once per week for the first month, and once every two weeks thereafter
      • Encourages and supports the relationship between the Host Family and the parent
        • Facilitate visits between parent and children
        • Actively addresses any concerns the parent has about the care their child is receiving from the host family.
      • Determines parent's progress on the issues that led to the need for a SFFC hosting arrangement through check-in phone calls at least once a week
      • Ensures that the parent is receiving the services they need including making referrals to appropriate services and supports to help them in meeting goals
      • Has some child welfare experience and/or is an experienced Host Family
  • Mentoring and parental Support: Provides essential extended family-like relationships and mentoring
    • Recruits the volunteer Family Friend(s) who:
      • Works with the parent whether or not they have their kids placed with a host family
      • Mentors the parent to support them in making helpful changes to their lives
      • Provides friendship, encouragement, and support to these parents
      • Supports Host Families with babysitting and transportation needs
      • Nurtures and protects children by caring for their parents
  • Family Coach Supervisors: Provide training to Host Families, Family Friends, and Family Coaches Volunteers in how to respond to the needs of children and parents by supporting their educational, medical, emotional, and behavioral needs, and how to address symptoms related to trauma
    • Introduces PC-Care (which uses aspects of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)) to all volunteers
    • Encourages volunteers to utilize the principles of focused attention and praise with the children in the program
    • Encourages volunteers to share PC -Care skills with parents and support them in learning to better manage their children's behavior
    • Supports the parent in strengthening their protective factors

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Safe Families for Children (SFFC) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Have a parent in a crisis and may struggle with noncompliance and difficulty managing emotions

Parent/Caregiver Services

Safe Families for Children (SFFC) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Parents facing any crisis that prevents them from being able to provide safe and stable care for their children such as homelessness, lack of support systems, medical hospitalization, lack of childcare, financial difficulties, mental health issues, or domestic violence; lack of reliable social support able to assist with caring for children during times of significant stress
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: In order to maintain familial connections and strengthen the network of support for the child while they are in the host's housing, children may have visits or phone calls with other extended family members outside of the parent requesting services.

Recommended Intensity:

Family Coach – weekly phone calls with the parent plus calls as needed with the host family Host Family – daily contact with children they are caring for and a minimum of weekly contact with the children's parent(s)

Recommended Duration:

Average length of stay for children in hosting arrangements is 45 days but it can range from 2 days to 2 years and parents may use the hosting program multiple times for assistance in caring for their children. After children are returned home, the volunteers maintain involvement with the parent 6-12 months after hosting.

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Daily Living Setting


This program does not include a homework component.


Safe Families for Children (SFFC) has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Host families need to provide housing and phone; may need car seats, clothing, diapers, and hygiene supplies which will be obtained by the Family Coach through donations or purchase.
  • Staff needs Internet access, phone, and reliable transportation.
  • Churches or other organizations that need to provide space for volunteer training and on-going support meeting.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Within the child placing agency (or the organization the child placing agency is supervising), it is recommended that the SFFC manager have a social work, counseling, or related degree though they may also be qualified based upon experience. A Master's level social service professional, or individual otherwise qualified based on a Bachelor's Degree and experience, is required to sign off on home assessments, to supervise intake staff, and to supervise volunteer Family Coaches.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

Safe Families for Children. (2018). Safe Families for Children operational policies and procedures. Author.

A program manual may be requested at

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

On-line training is available for both volunteers and implementers through the Safe Families for Children Community Hub:

Anyone can create a username and password to enter the Hub, but enrollment keys to access training can only be obtained from a Safe Families' implementing site.

Number of days/hours:

Safe Families Core Training takes about 3 hours to complete. Host Families complete the core training plus an additional Host Family module which takes almost 2 hours to complete. Family Friends require only Core Training. Volunteer Family Coaches complete the core training plus an additional Family Coach training which takes about 2 hours to complete online. Live training sessions are available at sites with approved trainers, and are typically scheduled to last about five hours. Additional questions and training review are provided by the Home Study Specialist when they meet with the volunteer family in their home. Family Coaches provide additional coaching as needed. There are on-going volunteer webinars on a monthly basis available online. Additionally, there are monthly webinars conducted by the national office for implementer sites in order to share updates and provide additional training.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Schneider, W., Testa, M. F., & Budde, S. (2023). Effects of a voluntary hosting program for child welfare involved families. International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice, 7, 175–204.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 216


  • Age — Mean=5.4–5.9 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Intervention Group: 47% White, 35% Black, 14% Latinx, and 4% Multiethnic; Comparison Group: 42% Black, 37% White, 11% Latinx, and 11% Multiethnic
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were children who were the subjects of a report of child maltreatment that had been accepted for formal investigation by CPS.

Location/Institution: Cook County, Illinois

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to report results from a pre-registered, experimental evaluation of Safe Families for Children (SFFC), a voluntary hosting program for children whose parents are being investigated for child maltreatment. Participants were randomized to the SFFC intervention group or to the services as usual comparison group. Measures utilized include DCFS administrative records. Results indicate that the intervention deflects alleged and indicated victims of maltreatment from the formal foster care system to the voluntary alternative care for host families. In addition, SFFC also demonstrates positive or null effects across a variety of child welfare outcomes, including subsequent episodes of indicated maltreatment and return to or maintenance in the parental home. Limitations include concerns over external validity due to protocol deviations from the logic model, administrative data restrictions, length of SFFC intervention treatment not specified, and concerns over generalizability due to Illinois being a predominantly White demographic.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: Not specified.

Additional References

Black, L. (2009, March 29). Hope amid desperation. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from

Riley, N. S. (2017, Summer). Drawing a larger circle around families. Philanthropy Magazine. Retrieved from

Riley, N. S. (2018, March 24). What's a single mom to do during a week in the hospital? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Contact Information

David Anderson, PhD
Title: Founder, Executive Director, and National Director of Research, Training, Scaling and Innovation
Agency/Affiliation: Safe Families for Children
Phone: (773) 653-2225

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: March 2024

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2023

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: October 2018