Mission: The mission of Volunteer Families is to improve the lives of at-risk children and youth, by providing a network of volunteer host families across Virginia. Volunteer Families envisions a Commonwealth in which all children andyouth have the opportunity to experience the lifelong benefits of a safe, nurturing family.
Children and youth deserve families in which they: are free from harm, feel valued and worthy of love, are free to heal and grow, can learn to love and to trust others, and have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with adults.
When crisis strikes, many of us rely on relatives, church or friends for support. But for some parents, there simply is not safety net. And for other families, the safety net is extremely fragile, with parents depending upon elderly grandparents to care for their children. Often problems such as drug additction, domestic abuse, incarceration, unemployment or illness make it impossible for parents to care for their children. During such crises, children are especially at-risk for neglect or abuse as their parents struggle to cope. ;Volunteer Families' services give these parents the time they need to address the issues that created the family instability, and provide a safe and nurturning temporary home for their children.
;Established in 1979 by the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Department of Corrections and the Virginia Council of Churches, Volunteer Families is a nationally recognized leader in host homes programs. Our model is built on strong public-private partnerships in over 43 Virginia communities. Volunteer Families is based on the philosophy that a child''s needs are best met in a caring and loving home. Volunteer Families values excellence at every level, and works collaboratively to empower volunteers to meet the needs of the children and youth within their own communities.
Results: Since 1979, Volunteer Families has served over 17,000 at-risk children and youth throughout Virginia.
Target demographics: at-risk children and youth ages birth through 17
Direct beneficiaries per year: 500
Programs: Volunteer host home families provide short-term shelter and respite care to abused, neglected, runaway, homeless and at-risk children and youth. Volunteer Families is not paid foster care -- respite or emergency shelter placements with a host family are short-term and the families volunteer to open their homes at any hour of the day or night, as a service to children, youth and their community.
Volunteer Families' statewide network is made up of 12 regional shelter care programs serving over 43 localities. Each regional program is supported by a Program Coordinator. The program staff works to build relationships and form official linkage agreements with local service agencies for communities in need of Volunteer Families' shelter care program.
Each Volunteer Families regional shelter care program has a Community Council comprised of volunteer leaders who work with staff to promote the Volunteer Families program, assist with recruiting volunteers, and connecting with communities of faith, businesses, civic groups and schools.
We have been connected to Volunteer Families (formerly Volunteer Emergency Families for Children -VEFC) since 1982 when we became a host family. The first placement we had was a 17 year old out of state runaway who arrived on my husband's birthday. He was astounded that we had birthday cake for him. The next day his sister arrived with the court services worker and tearfully thanked us for taking such good care of him. We had several phone calls from him after that- one saying he was going into the Marines, to become "the best Marine I can be." We received letters from him until he went to Lebanon. Then the letters stopped - and we were concerned for his well being.
Five years later we received a phone call, and it was this young man, calling to let us know that he was doing great, and was running a construction company in California. He then told us that he was hiring kids "like he was" to work for him, and again he thanked us for taking such good care of him.
About 10 years after that we received another phone call. We had moved from our original home and had another phone number, so it really wasn't easy for him to track us down - but he did! We had a wonderful talk. He was married, had children of his own, and was a long distance trucker living in Florida. Again, he thanked us for helping him when he was 17. I used about 3 tissues after that phone call!
This young man changed our lives too. I continued to volunteer for VEFC (VF) as the local volunteer coordinator, and about 6 months later joined the staff. For over 19 years, I was blessed to be part of the VEFC (VF) staff-family until I retired in 2001.
I am impressed with the new energy and rebuilding that Volunteer Families is doing now, and continue to support their ministry and mission as much as possible.