CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Families who could get split apart in the foster care system are being given another option.

Illini Christian Ministries helps to keep families in central Illinois together without getting the state involved.

At-risk families can have their kids put in ‘host homes’ and eventually be reunited. This organization has been open for 52 years. Since then, they’ve helped hundreds of people.

Executive Director Nadia Berger says, “The foster care system is a necessary evil in our society. But I feel like this can help families avoid the system who don’t need to be there.”

While DCFS works to keep kids safe, Illini Christian Ministries takes a different approach to help families who would otherwise be separated permanently.

Berger says, “We’re here if a family is homeless and has no place for their child to go, or if a family is facing an acute medical medical crisis and doesn’t have a safes place for their children to be while they get treatment, substance abuse and mental health treatment.”

When parents come to them in their biggest time of need, Illini Christian Ministries works with them, placing the kids with temporary host families. They can live there while parents get the help they need. The organization provides free resources to make their lives more stable.

Berger says, “Families belong together whenever possible. Children should be with their parents if that’s possible.” When the parents are able to provide a healthy environment, they’re reunited with their kids.

“It’s really rewarding to see a parent who has been struggling be able to, because of their determination and hard work, to get back on their feet and have their kids come back to a more stable situation where they feel like they can provide all the things for my kids that they need,” says Berger.

Illini Christian Ministries runs entirely on donations and families who volunteer to be hosts. Click here to learn how you can help.