An organization that connects struggling children and families with church members is hoping to expand its footprint into Carroll County next month.

Safe Families for Children is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families in crisis and is expanding its presence to multiple counties in Georgia. The nonprofit was started in Chicago by Dr. David Anderson in 2004.

The organization is hoping to expand to Carroll County in January if the nonprofit can raise the $100,000 in funds needed to operate for the first two years and hire a chapter coordinator. New chapters are also being launched in Muscogee and Cherokee counties.

As of Thursday afternoon, $13,650 had been raised, and residents can donate to this cause by visiting safe families.funraise.org/fund raiser/safe-families-of-car roll-county. Checks can also be made out to the organization.

Lindsey Williamson, the chapter development lead for Carroll County, told the Times-Georgian on Thursday that she got involved with the organization when she arrived in Georgia four years ago.

She said Dr. Anderson was running a foster care agency in Chicago, where he would have mothers ask him if there was anything that he could do to avoid their children being put into foster care. But Anderson said he did not have the resources to do that.

“What he realized with these families is that whatever crisis they were in, that wasn’t their main issue,” she said. “What he realized is these families have no support system. He looked at his church and thought if he could take the greatest resource the church has, which is community, and match it with these families whose greatest need is social support and relief from isolation, maybe we can figure out some of these problems.”

Williamson and her husband are foster parents to four children, and she said she quickly realized that DFACS does not immediately intervene when a crisis occurs.

The department gives the family time to figure things out, she said, but without a support system in place, she added that multiple traumas can occur. If abuse and neglect occur, that is when the Family and Children Services department will step in.

“By the time the kids are removed and placed into care, often a lot of damage has already been done,” she said. “In our experience, often it was almost too late, barring some kind of miracle.”

She also noticed that if parents did not get the help they need, nothing would change to help the family. When she moved to Georgia, she was “immediately drawn” to Safe Families because the nonprofit answers her two main concerns.

There are about 140 chapters of Safe Families across the country, but Williamson said that up until recently, there were none located in Georgia. The organization has been active in Troup County since 2014 and has placed more than 100 children into caring homes, according to a release from the nonprofit.

“Safe Families for Children has proven to be a much needed and trusted resource in Troup County,” said the Rev. Aaron McCollough of the Troup Baptist Association and the Safe Families West Georgia Leadership Council in the release. “As I watched this program grow, I observed how the program not only supports families in crisis, but it also has become a tremendous resource to our churches and community service agencies. I’m excited to see Safe Families for Children expand throughout Georgia.”

The organization has conducted more than 50,000 “hostings” through church members who volunteer to bring children in to live with them for six weeks. The families who are in crisis are matched with church families that have undergone training and a background check.

Williamson said training for Safe Families is easier than becoming a foster parent because it is done through self-paced online courses. The families who need help get mentoring and help back on their feet and the social support they need even after reunification with their children takes place.

There are six churches in west Georgia that have gotten involved with the organization, including Midway Church in Villa Rica, King’s Chapel, First Baptist of Carrollton, Glenloch Baptist, Roopville Road Baptist Church and potentially Southern Hills Church.

Families who want to partner with the nonprofit can contact Williamson at 205-639-8332 or by email at lwilliamson@safefamilies.org.