Rick Wheat, President and CEO
Rick Wheat, President and CEO
How does one know if a new idea will work as well in the real world as it does in one’s mind? One has to test the new idea, evaluate the results and make a judgment about the new idea’s effectiveness.

In the business world, this concept is called “R&D” or “research and development”. Businesses do R&D for a variety of reasons including the creation of new products, keeping employees’ minds fresh, creating new knowledge, generating buzz in their field, and developing better ways of working. Of course, those same reasons are valid for faith-related nonprofit organizations.

Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services has a history of creating new services and treatment programs to meet the needs of children and families. We certainly work to keep our minds fresh and to create new knowledge about meeting the needs of children and families. We don’t mind a little “buzz” now and then and we definitely want to find new ways of working with children and families that are more effective than anything we’ve done in the past. In fact, these are examples of what makes our ministry vibrant, effective and relevant.

The freedom we have to try new things drives innovation and improvement. Consequently, each year we have been able to increase the number of individuals for whom we care. We are able to generate better outcomes. We are able to approach our ministry with fresh and open minds.

I want to share three new efforts we are working on right now. These are simple examples of how we look for ways to innovate and improve our effectiveness and outcomes.

First, we are exploring the impact small things make. For example, we are experimenting with the location of our therapists’ offices. We are comparing having therapists’ offices in the houses with therapists’ offices in a separate building. This may seem like a small matter, but we know the location of a therapist’s office can have significant influence on the way a treatment team operates. We want to identify the location that is best. Other small things we will soon try are different paint colors in a “time out” room and the creation of a “comfort room”.

Second, across our agency, we have begun implementing the Children And Residential Experiences (CARE) model. Our CARE rollout will occur over a three year period while Cornell University’s Residential Child Care Project staff work closely with us to ensure our living environments consistently encourage children to thrive by enhancing the quality of our milieu and supporting positive interactions among the staff and children who live, work, grow and play together.

CARE is designed to profoundly influence the way our staff think about working with children and will ensure we keep our eye on being developmentally focused, involve families in treatment, are relationship-based, centered on competence, and approach our work with an appreciation for the impact of childhood trauma. We anticipate CARE will generate these positive outcomes for us: increased knowledge and ability on the part of staff in applying the CARE principles in their practice; improved organizational climate and culture; decreases in critical incidents such as fighting, verbal abuse, runaways, physical interventions; increased organizational congruence in serving the best interests of the children; and improved child outcomes.

Third, in March of this year we added a new position to our Leadership Support Team. Mr. Gary Rambin will be our first Director of Staff Development. Gary will soon celebrate his 26th year as a leader in our agency. He knows us inside and out and will focus his great enthusiasm and passion for our staff on supporting their personal growth in new ways we’ve not done before. Here’s why this is important to me.

Healthy, vibrant organizations are like a three legged stool: they have necessary resources, quality programming, and excellent staff. For 110 years, Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services has been blessed with board and executive leadership who have ensured our agency has had all three legs planted firmly. Our ministry resources are exceptional. We have beautiful buildings and grounds which are well maintained. Our array of programs is without parallel. We have made significant investments in doing our ministry well. Our staff are committed, love our kids and keep their eyes on our mission.

Our new Staff Development Department will ensure we are doing our best to enhance the unique skill sets of individual staff members. As individual staff members excel, the effect will be cumulative further improving our ability to minister well. Each employee of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services will have opportunity to create a Personal Development Plan identifying areas of strength to build upon, skills that are good but can be improved, and areas of deficit with steps designed to strengthen them. As time passes, I expect to see great results come from a focus on Staff Development.

The freedom to try new things drives innovation and improvement. After evaluating potential outcomes, new ideas that might generate positive results must be tested in the real world. Will every new idea generate a successful outcome? No. Some will not; but this is the way of progress. When new efforts do not generate good results, we learn from them what we can and then we set them aside for something better.

Unless a ministry tries new things it becomes stale and stagnant. That will not happen here. We have a long history of vitality, quality and growth. Our eyes remain open for new opportunities to improve, enhance, innovate and expand our ministry to children and families.

We are grateful for your support as we work to achieve our mission.

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