Resurrection Fern on Old Oak at Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home
Nearly every morning I park my old white truck beneath the thick solid limbs of a large Live Oak in front of Webb Hall where my office is on the grounds of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home. Most mornings I arrive early enough that my favorite spot beneath the huge old oak is available.
I love the old oak for many reasons. Some mornings it reminds me of all the Home’s history which has transpired since the old tree was merely an acorn. Great things do come from small potential. I enjoy walking beneath the tree’s large canopy and looking up into how huge an expanse of sky it hides with shade.
I like the birds, the squirrels, the bug life, the butterflies, the critters that make their lives in the old oak tree. Once I watched a Magnolia struggle to grow for three years from seed to skinny twig in the natural compost collected in the fork of two huge branches. It did not make it.
But some things live where others cannot. Some are survivors. Most of the tree’s old limbs are covered by Resurrection fern.
Resurrection fern is aptly named. It’s a wonderful fern that dries up and almost disappears during a dry spell, especially in the heat of Summer. In a drought, the Resurrection fern curls up its little leaves, gives up its green color and looks dead. It’s so gone, so brown, that it blends into the colors of the oak tree’s trunk.
When the drought ends, when the dry spell is over, Resurrection fern does as its name implies and rushes back to life! As fresh rain falls on it, the fronds unfurl and open up again. A lively green returns to the open, lush fronds and the thick limbs of the old Live Oak come to life, covered in vivid green.
By one estimate, Resurrection fern can endure 100 years of drought and dessication yet still come back to life after a single rain.
The Resurrection fern I see every morning on the old Oak is an excellent daily metaphor for the Home. Our work is about resurrecting. What we do is all about life!
I see the green Resurrection fern after a rain and I am reminded of possibilities for our children. Many of our kids have parched souls dessicated by an interior drought wrought by the trauma they have experienced. They are too young to know it yet, but one day their fresh rain will come. Their hearts will resurrect with life. As young adults they will laugh. As they age, they will experience life with its vivid green fronds.
The Resurrection fern reminds me, too, of the Home’s long history and the ebb and flow of resources we have experienced through the decades. Growing as it does on the solid foundation of an old Oak tree, the Resurrection fern endures what comes – drought or drenching – and grows when it can. It represents potential during drought and gives evidence of what is positive after a fresh rain.
Each time I see the Resurrection fern take advantage of a little rain, the whole concept of doing much with just what you need comes to mind. Sooner or later, rain always comes. Every child living with inner pain that feels like death has the potential for new life. You see, the lessons of the Resurrection fern I see each morning are rich. The little ferns growing forever on ancient oaks are a natural inspiration for me.
When you next see the green of the Resurrection fern on a tree near you – they thrive on Live Oaks and Pecan trees – think of the Home. I sure do.
Designed by Jessica Pullin (left) and co-modeled by Savanah Knight (right), our new Job Fair banner is great!
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Our new Job Fair banner is a huge step up from what we’ve used in the past. Look for it at a Job Fair near you!
Learn more about working for Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, Mandeville and Sulphur by visiting our Career Opportunities page. We are always looking for exceptional people who wish to invest their lives in a career that literally makes a difference in the world!
Happy New Year!
2012 will be a year we in Louisiana remember as a year of transition from the former child welfare system to Louisiana’s new Coordinated System of Care. For Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana in Sulphur and for Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, 2012 will be remembered as a year in which we made remarkable changes, expanded our staff and enhanced our ability to provide the most intensive levels of residential care in Louisiana. Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans will remember 2012 as a year of limbo and not knowing where we would be located in 2013. Across Louisiana, we were supported by your prayers and donations during 2012 and we are grateful!
The staff members of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family services are a diverse family of like-minded, like-hearted people who use the resources we have to accomplish a transcendent mission. We are the hands and the feet of the church, ministering to broken-hearted people held captive by pain – blinded and bruised. Our ministry, our presence in the world, is very clear evidence of God at work in the world today.
On this, the first day of 2013, I want to begin the year by saying, “Thank you!” On behalf of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, I extend our gratitude for your constant support, your faith in our dedication to our mission, and your prayers for our board of directors, for our staff and for our children and their families. Thank you for loving the Home and for encouraging our staff as they pursue our mission to guide children and families home to experience God’s love by following the teachings of Christ!
Have you ever lived a perfect day? Probably not. But do you remember a day that was perfect for you? Was it because the day was focused on a single event like your wedding and the day was perfect because the event happened? Or was the perfect day for you a result of all the little things going well? Did all the little things add up and result in a perfect day for you?
Have you ever considered all the things that make up a single day of care for a child?
It begins at midnight while the child is asleep. Does anything interrupt the child’s sleep? Is the mattress comfortable and the pillow soft? Is the air clean and fresh? Is the room temperature correct? Is the bedroom safe?
Then morning comes. How is the child awakened? With a soft, “good morning”, or a harsh, “TIME TO GET UP”? Is the first face the child sees smiling? Does the child have all the personal care items he or she needs/wants to prepare for the day? Are the towels and wash clothes soft? Is breakfast delicious and warm and healthy? You get the idea.
Nearly everything a child experiences while in our care is in our control. We want all those little things to add up each day so that the result is a perfect day for each child.
Will it happen every day? No. It’s not likely because we all live in an imperfect world. Each child has her or his own unique tastes, desires and preferences. And in the larger context, one consequence of childhood trauma is that it can be difficult for a child to appreciate or properly evaluate something in the present.
Still, I plan to talk a lot this year about how we can strive for “Perfect Days of Care” at Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans in Mandeville, Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana in Sulphur and in our Transitional Living Program in Monroe.
Of course perfection is an impossible standard. It is, however, a worthy goal. In every area of life the pursuit of perfection is the antidote to mediocrity. Everything we do toward providing perfect days of care makes what we do for children and their families that much better.
We held the Angel Tree Christmas Parties for our kids in Ruston last night.
They LOVED their Christmas gifts!
I am always amazed by how excited and grateful our kids are for the gifts they receive from all of you who support our Angel Trees. It’s such a simple thing you do – but it brings so much joy to kids who struggle everyday with pain!
The evening began in our Chapel with a Christmas devotion and caroling. Our excited kids then moved quickly from the Chapel to their houses as they hurried to their goodies. Our staff had prepared Christmas snacks for the parties. Our kids gathered, sang and heard, “The Night Before Christmas”. And then the gifting began!
From our newest girl who had just been admitted into the Reception Center (she was overwhelmed by what she received) to the boy in C. B. White house who received camo clothing and quickly “disappeared”, our kids had a blast last night. “Trapper”, a gentle Golden Retriever, was dressed as an elf. He wandered the campus with other “elves”, spreading cheer among the kids!
All of us at the Home join to say, “Thank you!” Once again, with your Angel Tree gifts, you have made a marvelous thing happen for our kids!
One of the most intense jobs at the Home is that of the Mental Health Specialist. It is a high calling and a difficult duty. Mental Health Specialists are in the trenches and on the line. They are the hands of our agency ministering directly to our residents. Their work requires heart, compassion, patience, wisdom, kindness, the strength to turn the other cheek and the ability to forgive.
Mental Health Specialists build relationships with adolescents who have few relationship skills. They care for children who do not often have the ability to care in return. We have exceptional Mental Health Specialists and I am grateful to all them for the excellent care they provide, their commitment to our kids, and their pursuit our mission in Louisiana.
History of Direct Care Staff
Through the years, the titles of those who have been most directly involved in providing care to our residents have changed. From the beginning of our orphanage days a Matron was responsible for managing a whole house of kids. Then, in the 60′s, House Parents cared for up to 12 children in a house. House parants were mature couples who were willing to live in a house with a dozen kids.
In the 70′s we added Child Care Workers to support the House Parents. In the 90′s as our House Parents retired, we replaced them with House Supervisors. As the behavioral and emotional needs of our residents continued to increase, we added Assistant Supervisors to assist with supervision so that our residents received direct care from a House Supervisor, an Assistant Supervisor and Child Care Specialists. Depending on the needs of our kids and the level of care they required our staffing ratios have varied by need. Some intensive care units like programs in the Scott Building in Ruston have had a 1 staff to 2 child ratio. Other less intensive units have had a 1:4 ratio.
Mental Health Specialists
Among the changes made this year to the child welfare system in Louisiana, new licensing rules specify the requirements and staffing ratios of Mental Health Specialists. Because we care for more than 16 children at each of our locations, we can only provide residential services as psychiatric residential treatment facilities. This new license requires at least a 1:3 staffing ratio. We do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The staff who provide this direct care are now called Mental Health Specialists.
You can learn more about the position on our Career Opportunities page but here are the minimum qualifications:
Minimum Qualifications: Must have no criminal history and have an excellent driving record. Must have or be actively pursuing a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in a mental health-related field (including, but not limited to sociology, criminal justice, nursing, marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation counseling, psychological counseling and other professional counseling); or have earned a Bachelor’s degree in any field and be pursuing a graduate degree in a mental health-related field and have completed at least two courses in that identified field; or be a licensed Certified Nursing Assistant with two years experience; or have a high school degree or a GED and have two years (full-time paid or equivalent) experience providing direct services in a mental health, physical health, social services, educational or correctional setting.
Caring for children as a Mental Health Specialist is not for the weak-hearted. It is work that requires a strong, kind heart and stamina. However, if you have a heart for children, the work will exercise your heart, challenge you constantly and give you opportunities to care for children and adolescents with significant emotional and behavioral needs.
December 11, 2012, Ruston – Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston Louisiana has achieved licensure to operate as a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) by Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals.
“Our staff made this happen,” states Rick Wheat, President and CEO of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services. “Receiving this new license is validation of our employees and their efforts to make this happen well. Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home is now licensed to provide the most intensive level of residential care in Louisiana for children with the greatest behavioral and emotional needs. Our staff members have done remarkable work during 2012 preparing for this new license and they have done it without taking their eyes off what is most important – caring well for our children and their families. Our employees are awesome!”
Now that the 84-bed Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home has successfully achieved licensure, Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans in Mandeville will be the next Methodist facility to complete the PRTF licensure process. Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana in Sulphur was granted PRTF license “001″ in October of this year.
Obtaining these three PRTF licenses has been an expensive endeavor. A facility must be fully operational as a PRTF on the day of the licensing survey. Across Louisiana, the agency’s staff has grown from 400 to 462 during the ramp up to PRTF licensure. New staff positions include Psychiatrists, Nurse Practitioners, additional Registered Nurses and LPNs, additional licensed mental health professionals and an increased number of Mental Health Specialists.
Indicating the importance of the Home’s Board of Directors and supporters, Wheat said, “This achievement is a result of our Board of Directors’ confidence in the agency’s ability to make this transition. We have been able to achieve these new licenses because Methodists in Louisiana have strongly supported our ministries during our 126 year history. Our supporters believe in our mission, believe in our staff, and believe in caring for Louisiana’s children and adolescents with the greatest emotional and behavioral needs. Without the guidance of our Board and the financial support of our many active donors across Louisiana, we could not have accomplished this.”
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services works continuously to enhance its ability to care for children and adolescents whose needs are challenging. Wheat points out, “this new license raises the bar for us and allows us to increase the intensity of our treatment programs so we can better care for the children in Louisiana with the most intensive needs. This is another step in our pursuit of our mission to guide children and families home to experience God’s love by following the teachings of Christ.”
# # #
Gary Strebeck, Executive Director of Public Relations
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services
904 DeVille Lane, Ruston, LA 71270
This is a question I’m asked frequently. It’s a good question, too: “Why are the Homes becoming Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities?”
The primary reason is because becoming licensed as Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities is the next step in our long history of providing the most appropriate care for Louisiana’s children with the deepest emotional and behavioral needs. This transition allows us to continue doing and improving our work of ministry.
Let me share a passage written by Rev. Harry E. Ezell, the gentleman who served as Superintendent of the Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston from 1960 to 1973. He clearly saw today from his view forward in 1971.
“During the decade of the 1960′s, the Home sought to respond to the changing needs of a changing society. In an apparently increasingly unstable society, in which the incidence of many human ills, particularly mental illness, has skyrocketed, boys and girls in need of our care have also been generally more disturbed. It has been necessary to seek to offer a broader range of services to help meet these needs. A higher level of professional training, from House Parent staff through all levels of “professional staff” has become mandatory. Closer cooperation and coordination between various agencies offering services to youth has become a necessity.”
From “The Methodist Children’s Home: A Brief History”, March 19, 1971, by Harry E. Ezell
Forty-one years ago, people in the child welfare field were not generally thinking of systems of care. But Rev. Ezell was. He wrote, “closer cooperation and coordination between various agencies offering services to youth has become a necessity.” Today, we call that Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care.
Forty-one years ago, most children’s homes were struggling to justify their existence after the orphanage era ended. Harry Ezell had long let go of our orphanage past and was already transitioning Methodist Children’s Home into a center to address the needs of traumatized children. He understood the insidious nature of early childhood trauma and the necessity of addressing its consequences on children and adolescents.
In 1973 Mr. Terrel DeVille became Superintendent of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and for the next 38 years, the Home in Ruston continued pushing forward, added resources, trained staff, developed treatment skills, expanded across the state and created some of Louisiana’s most intensive treatment programs for children and adolescents. Under Mr. DeVille’s leadership, Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston grew from a single site into a multi-service agency which now provides care for children and families across Louisiana. We have a broad footprint. Now we are building the muscles to care for children whose needs are the most difficult to meet.
During 2012 our three residential centers, Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana in Sulphur and Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans, are becoming licensed as Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities. We are doing this so we can continue to intensify our ministry to children and families. What our former Superintendent, Rev. Harry Ezell, wrote in 1971 holds true today, “In an apparently increasingly unstable society, in which the incidence of many human ills, particularly mental illness, has skyrocketed, boys and girls in need of our care have also been generally more disturbed.”
I’ll end with this: the next sentence Rev. Ezell wrote after he wrote the paragraph above was, “These factors, along with the constantly rising costs of living, have greatly increased necessary costs.” After investing more than $1,000,000 to transition our three residential centers to Louisiana’s new psychiatric residential treatment facility licensure, we can report, Rev. Ezell had two powerful gifts. He could clearly state the obvious and he could see into the future.
We could not have taken this next step in our ministry without the strong support of those who love children and who support ministry to them. Thank you!
Among the holidays, there’s something unique about Thanksgiving Day. Unlike Easter and Christmas, it’s only almost a religious holiday. It’s celebrated across the country. It’s not a day off work to celebrate work like Labor Day. Nor is it a day in honor of what others may have done like Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Thanksgiving is a uniquely personal day. It’s about the attitude of gratitude.
For most Americans Thanksgiving Day is family time. Traditionally, generations get together for a meal and a time to reconnect. But some people don’t.
We all know people, families and children who seem to have little to be thankful for. Life is hard. Bad things happen and, for some, trauma seems to be the modus operandi of life. We’ve all been there at the wall, the tomb, or the pit of despair. We all remember past years when we lost important people, when important things or positions were taken away, and when important plans came apart.
But every year in November, Thanksgiving Day returns, the annual opportunity to become grounded again.
There’s an old hymn, “Count Your Many Blessings”. I loved it when I was a kid because it had a catchy tune and melody. Over the years I learned to love it for the wisdom it contains, “count your many blessings, name them one by one.”
Here as a reminder of an opportunity Thanksgiving Day presents to us all, I’ll share the lyrics:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
“Count Your Many Blessings” was written by Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr., a Methodist minister from New Jersey. While he authored more than 5,000 hymns, this one is generally considered his best.
So whether you’re up or down this Thanksgiving season, take a few moments by yourself and start your list. Count your many blessings!
All of us at Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services wish you a very grateful, very happy Thanksgiving!
More and more, people are asking me about Louisiana’s new Coordinated System of Care. Beginning today and in coming weeks I will answer the more commonly asked questions. Let me start with this series with this question:
Why does Louisiana use Medicaid to help pay for the care of abused and neglected children?
Today, more than 95% of our residents are in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) because of abuse or neglect significant enough for a judge to remove them from their families’ care. Since the late 1970′s, DCFS has paid a significant portion of the cost of caring for children who cannot live at home because of abuse or neglect.
Governor Jindal made changes in Louisiana’s child welfare system in March, 2011, creating what experts call a “managed behavioral health care system”. Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals was given responsibility for managing this new system called the Coordinated System of Care (CSoC). By executive order of the Governor, CSoC (sounds like “seasock”) is responsible for managing the care of all children in or at-risk of being in out-of-home placements.
Information from the Governor’s Office about the creation of the Coordinated System of Care is available here:
The Office of Behavioral Health at DHH was assigned responsibility for overseeing the work of Magellan, the company contracted to manage Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care. Magellan functions as a managed care organization, managing the care of children who are in or at-risk of being in out-of-home placements. Because of CSoC, most of the money Magellan uses to pay for the care of children in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services is comprised of Medicaid funds.
Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care takes $65.8 million state general fund dollars and, with changes to Louisiana’s state Medicaid plan, brings an additional $101 million Medicaid dollars into Louisiana. Medicaid is a federal health insurance program.
Of course, implementing CSoC in Louisiana is significantly more expensive than the previous child welfare system. So even with an additional $101 million (per year?), the end result is an “estimated total state savings of $16.3 million through fiscal year 2013.” This information is in the document from the Governor’s Office which is linked above.
Questions I will answer in the future include, “What has the financial impact of CSoC been on Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and others?”, “How will CSoC benefit Louisiana’s citizens?”, and “Why must the United Methodist children’s homes be licensed by the Department of Health and Hospitals?”