Thursday, June 23, 2011

Safe Families Update

It has been a long year. It was about this time last summer that I sat in the Mission Cafe meeting with people from the Safe Families national office, talking to them about running Safe Families in Wisconsin. I left that meeting so excited, already planning to talk with various pastors and ministry leaders who I thought would love to hear about this ministry of compassion.

The first road block came in the fall. We met with the state department of Children and Family Services. It was a crowded room in a Senator's office in Madison. Madison's Safe Families filled the room with their people. The national director of SF was there...and I joined the group, taking the last available seat. The head of DCFS looked right at us and said, "You have hit a wall. There is no way you can function in Wisconsin because of the law." His posture and attitude told us this was the end of the road. Period. We left discouraged to say the least.

Soon after that, I met Cherish who needed help. I decided to place her kids and someone from Safe Families Madison called DCFS on me and reported me. This was the first time I experienced the provision of God. Nothing happened. Not even a slap on the wrist. I want to believe that when DCFS called the local sheriff's department to have me arrested, the officer replied, "You want me to do what? Arrest a woman who helped a homeless, jobless pregnant mom find a safe home for her boys to stay while she is looking for a job and a home? Yea...right!"

Elections come in November and the political climate in Wisconsin drastically changed. A freshman Assembly man was voted in and a good friend of his told him about how I had almost been in trouble for helping a mom. He called me to set up a meeting. We met in December - I remember it was a really cold, snowy day and I totally wanted to cancel the meeting and not drive into Milwaukee. But, this was a God-ordained appointment. This Assemblyman said, "I like this ministry. I want to write a bill that changes the law. Are you with me?"

And our legislative battle began. January found us knocking on every single legislators door, telling them about Safe Families and the law we were proposing that would give parents rights they had been denied for decades in Wisconsin. I even met with the Lt. Governor who put her name on the legislation, something that hasn't happened in over 28 years.

Then, the budget repair bill hit. Tens of thousands of people stormed the capitol protesting the governor's plan. National media attention fell on our state, Senators fled to IL, and tensions between the parties hit an all time high. And our little bi-partisan bill fell into the background. I was told to just wait it out.

I begged all my friends in Wisconsin to call their Assembly representatives. Ask them to bring our bill to a vote. In March, we got our committee public hearing in the Assembly. I sat and listened as dramatic Assemblywomen cried out that this bill would allow drug dealers to hand their babies to the pizza delivery man. Thankfully, more logical heads prevailed and we made it through the committee phase and to the floor for a vote. There was a bit of histrionics - including an Assemblyman who actually said that this bill would open up the door to children being abused all over Wisconsin (with enemas and studded belts), but our little bill passed overwhelmingly.

On to the Senate is April. Where it sat...and sat..and sat. We finally got a public hearing in a committee the last Wednesday of the month of May. The testimony of a woman from IL who had used Safe Families to care for her child while she attended drug rehab brought tears to Senator's eyes. The all agreed, Wisconsin would benefit greatly from a ministry like Safe Families.

But then, the Native American lobby started fighting. They want to protect their heritage and culture and were upset at the thought of a non-NA family caring for a NA child. They were willing to "throw the baby out with the bath water", killing the whole bill to protect their children from bonding with a non-NA family. Things looked bleak as this very powerful lobby was bound and determined to kill our little bill. I called for prayer! We prayed our way through a meeting between our Assemblyman and the lobby group. Again...God won and the lobby group backed down (pretty much un-heard of around here!). We were back on track.

Now the committee still needed to vote, so another call to the troops to make phone calls and emails urging the committee to make the vote. They scheduled the vote and it took less than 3 minutes for the committee to unanimously vote in favor of our little bill.

Next is the full Senate vote. But here, we are stalled. So, today I met with the Senate Majority Leader to urge him to bring our little bill to the floor for a vote.

"But, we are focused on the recall elections." (Referring to the 9 Senators that face recalls this summer - back to the budget repair mess).

I know, but there are a few other bills out there that could really use a vote BEFORE the recall elections.

"I don't want to make any over ambitious promises to you."

I know, but you have bi-partisan support. Your conservative base (hint, hint) are all in favor of this bill and are waiting for you to bring this to a vote.

"OK - this is now on my radar screen. But, I can't promise you anything."

So, here I sit after spending 5 minutes with the man who can either bring Safe Families to a vote or put it back in the pile of "To Do" things. He gave me 5 minutes to share the vision of Safe Families, to share that this has bi-partisan support, that there are families waiting! And he didn't tell me anything.

As the rain comes down out my window, I am reminded that God's got this. His timing is perfect, and He is sovereign, sitting on His throne over all of this. I have done all I can do and now I lay my trust completely in God's hands to see what will happen. We will continue to pray and continue to hope.


mhomes said...

We ARE continuing to pray with you, Traci!! Our God is an AWESOME GOD and an all-powerful God!!

African Journeys said...

Thank you Traci for standing in the gap for the children and families. We are praying with you...

Donna-Jean Breckenridge said...

"As the rain comes down out my window, I am reminded that God's got this....and now I lay my trust completely in God's hands to see what will happen. We will continue to pray and continue to hope."

I have read your blog for so long, it seems. I am praying for your situation, and pray that God answers prayer for Safe Families. Your words also touched me because of a miracle we pray for in our own lives. I needed to read those words tonight.

I know God is able, and He is safe to trust.