by Rick Wheat, President and CEO
August 28, 2011

Last week I attended the Summer Workshop of the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries – otherwise known as "the UMA".  The Summer Workshop was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this year.  The UMA offered training for EAGLE peer reviewers.  EAGLE is the only faith-related accreditation process available to providers of health and social service ministries.  Finally, I met with the EAGLE Commission which reviews applications for EAGLE Accreditation.

For years I have enjoyed participating in UMA meetings and workshops.  Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services has a long history of being an active member of the UMA. I and other of our staff have served as EAGLE Accreditation Commissioners and EAGLE Peer reviewers.  Although the UMA is struggling a bit with the current economic downturn, the passion of United Methodists and faith-related leaders across the nation makes the UMA a lively, vital organization.

The real highlight of the Summer Workshop is the chance to visit with the leadership of United Methodist health and welfare ministries located in other states.  I hear directly from the source what is happening to other child welfare ministries.

The news is not so good in some states.  Change is occurring across the nation in the field of child welfare.  As always, some change is desired and some is not.  Whether it is good or bad depends on one’s perspective.  Some residential facilities are struggling to find a purpose because they are either unwilling or unable to make the changes required of them as systems of care are developed.

I also took advantage of my time in Milwaukee to see and learn first hand about Wraparound Milwaukee, a model system of care which Louisiana has consulted and considered during the creation of our state’s Coordinated System of Care.  I saw the benefits of a system of care, one that has been operational for 15 years.

As is happening in other places, Louisiana is implementing a Coordinated System of Care that will dramatically change the delivery of services for children and families across the state. I expect the outcome of these changes will vary by region, but where the CSoC is implemented well, children will benefit. The best result of a well-designed system of care is that children are able to remain with their families because the needs of the child and family are addressed early and in preventive ways.

Twenty years ago, when I worked as the Director of Admissions, I talked frequently with parents who were trying to place their children into Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home. At the time, we were a first point of contact for many families who had reached the end of their proverbial rope. We referred most families to community resources where they existed and along the way, to meet the needs of families, we created our Family Plus program which puts clinical and therapeutic resources closer to families.

It’s really simple.  Children should live with their families.  Even better than providing excellent residential care for children, would be to prevent the child from needing out-of-home care.

It’s not always possible, but if we can take advantage of opportunities created by Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care to put intervention resources into a family’s home, I believe we will be able to prevent more out-of-home placements and help families remain intact.

Expect to see Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services expand and create new "in homes" and community-based services to intervene early in family crises.  I’ll say it again: whenever possible, children should live with their families.  Our mission is "Guiding children and families home to experience God’s love by following the teaching of Christ". If it’s their home it’s even better!

Respectfully yours,

Rick Wheat
President and CEO
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services

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