BY KATIE MATTESON
Trisha and Peter Speers moved to Racine from the Appleton area seven years ago when Peter started a new job at S.C. Johnson.
The couple didn’t know anyone in their new community when they arrived and Trisha was pregnant with their first child. Evalyn, now 6, was later joined by Olivia, 5 and Claire, 3.
In addition to meeting friends at Grace Church, Trisha joined the local chapter of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) which meets at the church twice a month.
“When you don’t have family around, it’s so important to have a support system,” Trisha said. “I’m so grateful to MOPS and the wonderful friends we’ve made here.”
As a social worker, Trisha recognized the importance of informal family supports, and that not every family has them. When the coordinator from Safe Families for Children in Elkhorn spoke to the MOPS group, Trisha became aware of the opportunity to coordinate this support program in Racine for families in crisis.
Safe Families for Children is a network of families who volunteer to care for children for as long as needed. Help ranges from fixing a flat tire to helping care for the children of a mother who suffered a broken arm and leg after a brutal attack by a friend.
Trisha also learned that the organization had expanded from Walworth County to Kenosha County and wanted to further expand into Racine County.
After prayerful consideration, Trisha decided to take on the position of Family Coach Supervisor for Kenosha and Racine counties in February.
The part-time position allows her to work from home and puts her extensive education and experience in social work into action after a seven-year hiatus.
Prior to moving to Racine, Trisha worked in Appleton as the program director for a transitional shelter. Her previous experience includes working for a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C. through Americorps and spending six months in Guatemala helping to locate and aid malnourished children through Outreach for World Hope.
In her new role, Trisha manages the “circle of support” including host families, family coaches, resource friends and family friends who provide support to the family in crisis. She’s also the liaison to the growing number of churches in the area that have become involved in the program.
Since Safe Families for Children is new to Racine, she’s seeking volunteers to serve in all the various roles.
She’s responsible for conducting home studies for host families, training family coaches and will receive support from the volunteer coordinator for the three-county chapter. Other administrative support comes from two other staffers, a chapter director and another family coach supervisor in Walworth County.
Her work with families in need will go beyond dealing with the immediate crisis situation. She’ll also help parents meet goals for money management, places to live, jobs, distinguishing wants from needs and other life skills. Other support comes in the form of finding donors for supplies and meals.
“It’s not a babysitting service,” Trisha explained. “Those who don’t comply with our guidelines will be discharged.”
“Our goal is to build lasting relationships and model healthy support networks,” she added.
For more information, visit safe-families.org or contact Trisha Speers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For intake, call (262) 342-6777.