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Lucy Bromer: Changing Lives through Safe Families for Children

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Imagine opening your heart and home to a family in crisis.

The parents are experiencing a loss of stability through a trauma such as poverty, addiction recovery, homelessness, unemployment and other circumstances that make the family unit vulnerable. The children can become vulnerable to neglect and abuse.

Lucy Bromer’s family did just that in Dayton, Ohio, before moving to Columbia, Missouri. “We had been involved in Safe Families for Children in Dayton, where they had just launched a chapter,” Lucy shared. “When we found out we would be moving, I searched to see if Safe Families was in Columbia, but only found the Saint Louis location. I was pretty disappointed. However, one Sunday, my husband attended a local church before the boys and I moved and spotted a post in the bulletin about Safe Families. I learned they were trying to get Safe Families started here in Mid-Missouri. Two weeks after we moved, I went to my first Mid-Missouri launch team meeting; now I’m on staff with Bethany Christian Services as the Safe Families for Children coordinator for Mid-Missouri.”

Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit that supports children and families, began Safe Families for Children in 2003 as a solution for parents and families experiencing a trauma. “We may be connected more than ever online, but if families don’t live near relatives or have a trusted friend or neighbor in their community, a sudden upset in their lifestyle might completely upend their family,” said Christine Corcoran, regional branch director of Bethany Christian Services of Missouri. “Safe Families helps make that community connection for families weathering trauma, so the whole family can be loved and supported.”

When families are isolated in their community, they don’t have people to rely on and these situations might be detrimental to their family. Too often, kids are put into the foster care system unnecessarily when what’s really needed is some support while the parent or parents can get back on their feet. Through Bethany’s Safe Families for Children program, host families care for the children while the parents work through the crisis. The average stay of a child with a host family is just 30 days, but the program is unique in that families commit to anywhere from two days to 12 months of support, helping see the family through to restoration even after the child returns to the care of their parents. Ninety-seven percent of children return to their homes with their families after a stay with a host family.

“Before I transitioned to staff, my family was a volunteer host family in both Ohio and Missouri,” Lucy explained. “We have hosted five children ranging in age from one to eleven from three families, and each family situation was very different. We love the mission and vision of Safe Families and have really seen it impact lives for the better. In each situation, you see that these families really are not much different from your own. They love their kids and want what is best for them but are struggling. They need support, and Safe Families is an opportunity to connect families to each other.

“The thing we love about Safe Families is that we can invest in families, building them up and supporting them, before state intervention is an option. We can be a part of preventing child abuse and neglect, and keeping families together. Parenting is hard, and it definitely takes the support of a village to be successful. Safe Families offers struggling families a village of support. Not only do host families care for the children while parents get to a better place, but a relationship with the family is encouraged even after the hosting ends. I saw a situation in Ohio in which host parents for a three-month-old girl developed an ongoing relationship with the baby’s mother, who was going through drug rehab, and they refer to themselves as Grandma and Grandpa for this little girl. God really can make beauty from ashes.”

When Lucy took on her staff role, she could no longer host children in their home, but now she plays a key role in equipping volunteers and helping families in crisis. “I have my master’s degree in social work, and much of my job is vetting volunteers, setting up hostings, being a support to both the host families and referring families, and ensuring the safety and success of the hostings,” she affirmed. “I love seeing volunteers catch the vision, step out in faith and love their neighbors as Christ loves them. It’s not an easy task to take in a stranger’s children and love them as your own, so I do everything I can to make sure those families have the support they need. And I also support the referring family, helping them to meet their goals and find stability so they can be better equipped for the return of their children. And I’m excited to see what God is going to do through Safe Families for Children in Mid-Missouri.”

The Boone County Children’s Services Fund is providing funding to Bethany for the launch of Safe Families. “The Boone County Children’s Services Board is excited to fund a program that can help children and families of Boone County who may be struggling,” said Joanne Nelson, program manager of the Boone County Community Services Department.

Bethany is currently recruiting Safe Families host families and volunteers who can serve as family friends, resource friends and family coaches. To get involved, contact Bethany Christian Services of Columbia at (573) 217-0377 or learn more at