Teri Spragg always wanted more children, but her husband, Gary, wasn't so sure. What the Elk Grove Village couple did agree on was taking care of children in need on a temporary basis.
That was four years ago, when the Safe Families for Children Alliance entered their lives.
Founded in 2002 by Lydia Home Association, a Chicago-based social service agency, Safe Families serves children who don't qualify for the state foster care system because they are not victims of abuse or neglect, but their situations put them at risk for it.
Children newborn to 18 are temporarily placed in homes approved by Safe Families while their parents work through a crisis, such as homelessness, spousal abuse or drug addiction. The objective is for the parents to get their lives together enough to create their own safe home.
Families typically host children for two days to one year; the average stay is six weeks.
Teri, a 52-year-old stay-at-home mom, and Gary, a 56-year-old national accounts manager, say the program has another benefit for their 9-year-old son, Trevor. "He can see what other people go through and he can be compassionate."
Chicago Parent recently spoke with Teri about being a foster mom.
How long was the screening process? About three months. We were interviewed, our home was inspected and there was a background check.
How many children do you host each year? In 2010, we had four children. I believe you have to take a break between children to reflect on them and to get your family back as a unit.
Have you ever thought about bowing out? At times, it gets hard. I do not understand the parents, but I do it for the children, because they are the ones who suffer and they don't have a say in the situation.
What do you aim to accomplish with each child? I just try to provide love and give them attention. Since I have a child, I try to do the same things we do. It's nice to provide something new and fun.
What are the goodbyes like? You have to have the mindset that these children are only temporary and that you can make a difference during the days you have them.
What would you tell anyone thinking about getting involved with Safe Families? Do it. It is a great feeling to help someone else.