Photo from flickr by Lotus Carroll (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Safe Families Canada assists parents and children in crisis

“We are just called to love and show mercy as Christ did, and God will do the rest.”

TORONTO, ON—Clarissa Carmona grew up in the foster system because her mother was a drug addict. She stayed in about 17 foster homes by the time she was nine years old.

After growing up, getting married, and having children, Carmona went through several emotional crises due to a divorce, jail-time, and the pressure of looking after her children.

With the risk of losing her children over her head, a social worker suggested Carmona call Safe Families, an organization that provides safe places for children to stay while their parents get back on their feet.

“It wasn’t only for my children; they offered me help to. Somebody to talk to, someone who would listen and not judge me,” Carmona says. “They kept my family together.”

To support at-risk children and parents in need, Safe Families Canada relies on partnerships between churches, volunteers, and Christian organizations. Volunteers open their homes to children whose parents are going through a short-term emergency, allowing the parents to address the issues that are causing instability in the home.

“Since a young age, I have been very aware of God’s love for orphaned children and hurting people,” says Jennifer Francis, executive director of Safe Families Canada. “He has always impressed upon my heart His great compassion for the needy. I have, for a long time, felt a calling to love and serve the needy.”

“I find that many Christians in Canada don’t necessarily know or come into contact regularly with people who are in need. Safe Families is really just a platform to connect them to those people and to build a network of Christians all serving together.”

Francis first came up with the idea for the organization when she heard of the U.S. program Safe Families for Children, which helps fill the gap in services for families in crisis. She realized Canada needed something similar.

“Unless a child was being abused or neglected, government services wouldn’t intervene with a family,” says Francis. “However, there were countless families who didn’t meet that threshold yet and needed help.”

In the U.S., the Safe Families network is established in 30-plus states. More than 19,000 placements of children have occurred to date. The Canadian branch is operating in the Greater Toronto Area and working to expand their network to London, Ontario, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Moncton, New Brunswick.

To get involved, people can volunteer at local sites and coordinate Safe Families in their local churches. Volunteers host children whose families are going through emergencies like hospitalization or drug abuse.

“My faith has been so encouraged by the true Christian people who I meet through this work,” says Francis. “I can see how the Body of Christ really is a body, everyone with a different function, different gifts to offer. In Safe Families, I really get to see that exercised in a beautiful way.”

Francis says she is also encouraged by the families they help; their loneliness and hopelessness make her see life in a new way. She cares deeply about the families Safe Families supports during their crisis.

“We are just called to love and show mercy as Christ did, and God will do the rest.”

To get involved, support, or learn more about Safe Families Canada, visit

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