Brent and Virginia Fremmerlid have a huge heart for kids and a passion to help families in crisis.
The Vista couple has five children of their own but they consistently open their hearts and home to care for other kids in need through a program called Safe Families for Children.
"When you care for a child and you love that child they truly become part of you,” Virginia Fremmerlid said.
Nearly four years ago the Fremmerlid’s signed up to be a host family with Safe Families for Children. The non-profit organization provides kids a loving and safe place to stay, keeping them out of the foster system and giving their parents time to work through critical issues.
In just a handful of years, the Fremmerlids have hosted more than 30 children, sometimes more than once. The couple said they love each one like their own for that short period of time. They're a safety net of sorts; acting like an extended family for however long is needed.
"When the worst is happening in their life when they've lost their home, toys and clothes, we want to take them in and reassure them that this will pass," Virginia said.
Alyssa Smith is a program coordinator for the organization.
"That way kids are in a safe place and families who are in crisis can focus on resolving whatever issues they've got going on, and it can be anything,” Smith said.
Host families like the Fremmerlid’s are carefully screened and volunteer only to the degree they're able. That's partly what makes the Fremmerlid’s so exceptional; they've made themselves available countless times at all hours.
They are always ready to answer the call for kids in need. Virginia recalled one time receiving a phone call from a Safe Families representative who said, "There's a little baby that just needs three days. Could you take her?” Virginia’s response was “absolutely!”
"It can be one day or it can be three months," the couple said. No matter the length, the couple is happy to take in a child and help that family.
The Fremmerlid’s have designed their Vista property to be a safe haven for kids. In their rural backyard, they have slides, forts, a climbing wall and a pool. Inside their home, there are pictures and painted handprints on a bedroom wall that remind them of all the children they’ve cared for in the last few years.
“Every child that comes in, they're ours for that time in the way that we can love them and care for them," Virginia said.
Virginia is also proud of the family tree she painted on her master bedroom wall. On the branches, she has painted the names of all the children the Fremmerlid’s have housed through Safe Families.
They have countless stories of helping toddlers and babies through challenges and triumphs. They’ve cared for twins and infants all with the support of their Safe Families Coordinator. Each story brings a smile to their face.
“People always say 'Oh, you find your gift.' I think we've found our gift, it's just opening up our home," Virginia said.
The Fremmerlid’s, like other host families volunteering with the non-profit, don't get paid to do this. They said they do it out of love.
The family is always happy to see kids reunited with their parents, yet with each goodbye, they give a piece of their hearts away.
"We thought we'd be helping them but they've put such a huge influence in our home and in our heart that we never forget one of our children and we love each one in a special way that they will forever be part of our family," Virginia said.
Safe Families for Children says 98 percent of kids who come into their care are eventually unified with their parents. The organization partners with local churches to provide services and they are looking to expand to other areas of San Diego.
To find out more about Safe Families for Children and how you can get involved, click here.