Our first featured community spotlight is Mrs. Candi Gibson. Mrs. Gibson is the coordinator for the local Troup County Safe Families for Children (“SFFC”) organization.
As you will see from the following interview with Mrs. Gibson, this organization is helping children and parents through difficult times. SFFC aims in helping families avoid the trauma of foster care by having volunteers assist parents in times of need. Volunteers take children into their home and care for them while the parents are getting help they need. SFFC partners with local churches to recruit, train and approve volunteers to host children in their homes and mentor families in crisis. What is so impressive about this organization is they go beyond just taking the children in their home, but they become a resource for the parents and family. SFFC volunteers become accountability partners, friends, counselors, and many more resources for the families in need.
Please join me in recognizing and thanking Mrs. Candi Gibson, and Troup County Safe Families for Children.
Interview with Mrs. Candi Gibson:
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with Safe Families for Children?
I moved to LaGrange with my parents from Starkville, MS soon after graduating from High School in 1989. My husband (whose family has lived here for many generations) and I have been happily married for 20 years, and we have two beautiful daughters.
In college, I double majored in Psychology/Sociology and have worked in social services for the past 21 years in different capacities. Over 14 years ago, I became passionate to see the Church come back to help lead social services. I saw firsthand and have heard many leaders (local, state, and federal) acknowledge they ‘couldn’t stop the cycle’ of abuse and neglect, and I saw the Church as the missing link.
While volunteering for a local collaborative initiative, I met Mr. Mike Angstadt, and he shared with me a program Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services was about to bring to Troup County called Safe Families for Children. This reignited my passion to see God’s Church fully step back into its rightful place again in social services.
After accepting the position as coordinator for Safe Families for Children-West GA, a local program of Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, my training began. Through this training, and studying hospitality throughout the Bible, I realized that hospitality was social services and that God has called all of His children to be hospitable. Hospitality isn’t a spiritual gift that some Christians have. It’s a lifestyle of caring for strangers that we are called to as Christians. We are all commanded to care for our families and the church, but hospitality is a commission to care for strangers, expecting nothing in return.
Before the 1920’s, hospitality was an intrinsic part of the Christian culture. Hospitality was a way of life. And it’s easy to see how churches and Christian social services were crippled during the Great Depression. But in the 1930’s and 40’s, when the government stepped in, the church (for the most part) stepped back. Over time, hospitality became re-defined and understood differently. Today, we have mission trips and events, but I believe the Church will return fully to God’s plan of hospitality.
~ Matthew 25:31-46.
- What is Safe Families for Children? (What does the organization do, who does it help and how does it help?)
Safe Families for Children is a movement of the Church to care for children temporarily while their parents overcome a crisis situation. Safe Families for Children partners with the Church to recruit, train, and approve volunteers to host children in their homes and mentor families in crisis. The goals of SFFC are to: 1) Prevent child maltreatment, 2) deflect at-risk families from entering the welfare system, (foster care) and 3) stabilize and strengthen families in crisis.
There are many ways to volunteer for SFFC: Ministry Leader, Family Coach, Host Family, or Family Friends and Supervising Family Friends.
Placing parents retain full custody of the children and can request the return of their child at any time.
Volunteers are not paid or reimbursed for their services to families, and often admit that they receive more than they could ever give. Placements are short-term (a couple of days to a couple of months; most placements only last approximately 21 days.)
Examples of families in need: temporary homelessness or eviction, sickness or hospitalization, or short-term rehab and substance abuse counseling.
Children get hurt when families are isolated, alone, and have to depend on ‘acquaintances’ or people they don’t really know to care for their children. People who are unsafe target at-risk families and make themselves available. Safe Families for Children wants to be a safe place for children that parents can depend on in a time of crisis.
- What are some ways our readers can get involved?
Call our office for more information at (706) 298-0050 ext. 1073 or (706) 616-8028 or visit us at the Twin Cedars Coleman Center at 701 Lincoln Street, LaGrange.
Encourage their church to partner with Safe Families for Children, become trained as a volunteer,; and help us spread the news of SFFC to our community and to families who may need help.
SFFC-West GA does not want to be the ‘best-kept secret’ in LaGrange. Help us educate our community that families have a choice when they are in crisis and encourage them to call us when they have a crisis or meet someone in need.
- How does someone get the assistance of Safe Families for Children? (Intake process or referral process)
Our referral process is easy. Simply call our office at (706) 616-8028 to refer a family; or many times, the family calls us directly.
Once we connect with the family in crisis, we make an appointment to explain SFFC with the family, conduct a brief interview, and complete the intake process. Once the family accepts SFFC services, there are a few intake forms to fill out.
Parents do NOT sign over custody of their children; however, there is a Temporary Placement Agreement (which gives us permission to care for their child) and a Power of Attorney for Health Care (which gives us permission to give consent for medical treatment of their child in an emergency situation when the parents cannot be reached.)
- Is there something that gets overlooked or something that takes place behind the scenes that you think people should know about?
Our volunteers sacrifice their time, schedules, family, and resources to help children in need. SFFC would not exist without them. We thank our SFFC Church Ministry partners of Rosemont Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, and First Presbyterian Church who have trained ministry leads, host families, and volunteers working to help children and families in need.
We live and serve in a great community with amazing partner agencies and programs. It takes a village to strengthen and serve families and children, and we are only as strong as we are connected and partnered together. Along with other Twin Cedars counseling and prevention programs, SFFC partners with many government, church, and community programs to help strengthen families. Some of those include: Troup Co. Juvenile Court, Troup County Accountability Courts, Solicitors Office, Troup County Sheriff’s Department, LaGrange Police Office, Department of Family and Children Services, Troup County Health Department, and Troup County School System. (Some may assume that some of these agencies are only coercive and families should avoid them; however, they all engage families with programs and services that advocate and strengthen them as well.) And we absolutely could not strengthen families without the help and expertise of programs like Circles of Troup County, Harmony House, and United Way programs like Success By 6, Babies Can’t Wait, and many others.
Click here to learn more about Troup County Safe Families For Children