Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Helping out Close to Home; Vardy Brings US Movement to the North

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Helping out Close to Home; Vardy Brings US Movement to the North

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicola Weatherall? 0191 204 3308 ?

THE founder of an American organisation that inspired millionaire businessman Sir Peter Vardy to launch a movement to help families in crisis has met volunteers in our region.

Dave Anderson founded Safe Families in Chicago 10 years ago and it has since spread to 65 US cities across 25 states.

In Chicago, the organisation has 900 volunteer families who provide a temporary safe place for children when their parents are facing a crisis due to drug abuse, violence, financial difficulties, homelessness or illness.

Around 1,000 children in Chicago have entered the programme, saving the city potential welfare costs of $40,000 per child.

Sir Peter launched Safe Families for Children on Tyneside and brought Mr Anderson to meet church leaders and volunteers.

Volunteers can be "host families" who take in children for temporary stays of between two and 28 days, and family friends or mentors who work alongside parents facing difficulties.

Other supporters donate equipment, nappies, baby food and other items that might be needed.

At a meeting at Chowdene Community Church, in Low Fell, Gateshead, Mr Anderson said: "Safe Families is part of the solution to helping families in difficulties by providing safe places for kids.

"It's not coercive, it's purely voluntary on the part of the parents we help and, although the initial separation from mum is difficult, the kids sense the positive context in which it's happening.

"The parents are not only incredibly appreciative but also, when they're given some time to sort out their problems, the home life is stabilised and we see them doing better as a result. We help change the trajectory of all their lives."

The movement has recruited 215 volunteers across the region via local churches and the first child, a four-month-old boy, has been placed with a family in Durham for a weekend while his single mother was admitted to hospital. …

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