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Safe Families For Children making an impact in West Central MN

Over the last 20 months, the Safe Families For Children chapter of West Central Minnesota has made an impact in the Alexandria area.

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Safe Families Admin and Intake Coordinator Kelsi Leeseberg poses for a photo with a host mom and her family.
Contributed photo
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Since October of 2020, a Safe Families for Children branch has been open in west central Minnesota and has been offering help in and around the Douglas County area for those facing a crisis.

“What we do is we build networks of volunteers within communities so that when a family faces a challenge or some kind of difficult or crisis situation, we're able to wrap around that family and provide them with informal family-like support,” Safe Families for Children team member Sarah Boll said. “It's compromised of volunteers from the local community, who we've met, trained and done an interview and a background study. So we know that they're safe. We know that they're prepared and equipped. And then they can support the family, as they're overcoming whatever that challenge is.”

Boll said the organization is like a Swiss Army knife for those who may be in need.

“What I always tell people is, ‘What do you do when your car breaks down or somebody in your family has issues?’ Boll said. “I have three kids, so when I have a crisis situation I call my parents or I call my cousins or my brother or sister. And for a lot of people, if they've moved to the community for a job or a relationship, whatever brought them here, especially post-COVID. There are a lot of people who don't have that informal safety net. They might have people but they might not be here in the Alexandria area or in west central Minnesota.”

Boll says the SFFC’s goal is to provide a “circle of support.” Boll said they serve the Alexandria and a “hour perimeter” based on their ability.

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In an interview, Boll provided examples of how they’ve helped locals in need.

“We had a single mom who just had a baby and when she was about midway through her pregnancy, she realized she did not have somewhere for her older kids to go when she went into labor,” Boll said. “We were able to match her with a host family who over the last few months has gotten to know the kids and mom and has built a relationship with them. There was a plan if she went into labor. She had somebody to call and then as days led up to the baby coming, she had other volunteers, an assigned family friend and so they were checking in on her calling, seeing if she needed anything, praying for her.”

Boll said that when the woman had the baby, they brought her newborn resources and essentials that the woman took home with her from the hospital.

The organization is there to meet whatever needs a family has.

“We had a family that moved here last April. They had two little boys, and after moving, they found out that mom was pregnant, and then they found out mom was pregnant with twins,” Boll said. “They didn't know anyone and moved in the thick of COVID. After the twins were born preemies, mom really, really struggled with postpartum depression and actually needed to be hospitalized to get stabilized.”

According to Boll, this left the father with the four kids on top of having a demanding job.

“He worked in a really good job, but worked many hours and had a lot of responsibility and mom had always been a stay-at-home parent.,” Boll said. “We were able to provide people who could provide care for the kids. We found people who could give gas cards; he was driving to and from hospitals in the Cities and in Fargo. We provided meals and then the biggest thing I think is people know that we're there. So if they just need to process, if they just need to talk, whatever it is, they can call and just as we would with our cousins or our aunts or our parents, they can do that with us and know that we want to be there. We're only involved because we want to be.”

Boll said that the organization has 78 certified volunteers and 20 resource friends.

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The SFFC was started in 2003 and is based out of Chicago. For more information on the SFFC in Alexandria, go to its website, westcentralmn.safe-families.org .

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