Rick Wheat, President and CEO
Rick Wheat, President and CEO
Louisiana is making significant changes to the way services will be delivered to children in or at-risk of out-of home placement. This has been a long time coming and, if done well and with a tenacious persistence by the Coordinated System of Care to maintain fidelity to the values that undergird the system, it will be a good thing for Louisiana’s children and families. One must be careful not to expect the system of care will be released in a state of perfection. After studying other systems of care, I believe it will take a decade for Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care to really hit its stride. I believe, too, it will be worth the wait.

If the Coordinated System of Care is successful, it will mean fewer children in Louisiana require residential care. It will help keep children at home and keep families together. It will be a good thing. Consequently, it will reduce the need Louisiana has for residential care. And if it happens in the correct way, this will be a good thing.

Our own mission is simple: "guiding children and families home to experience God’s love by following the teachings of Christ." In our world, "home" often means one of our residential programs, but we miss the mark if "home" does not ultimately mean children find healthy ways back to their own homes and families.

Most who consider our ministry first think of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston. Founded in 1902, it’s our oldest campus where we offer a variety of residential programs. We also have two other residential sites, Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans, in Mandeville, and our newest, Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana, in Sulphur.

Because "Home" is in our names, many in Louisiana overlook something important about the services we provide to Louisiana’s children and families. Many are surprised to learn we actually provide care for more children and families off of our residential campuses than on them.

In addition to residential services, we place clinical staff directly in the homes of families who are experiencing stress and potential disruption. We provide counseling services in Family Plus offices in cities and communities across Louisiana. We also provide a range of non-residential services from equine-assisted psychotherapy to wilderness experiences at the Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center in Dubach, Louisiana. Our Transitional Living Program in Monroe is a supervised, community-based program which offers older adolescents opportunities to transition smoothly from structured care or foster care into independent young adulthood.

In the future we will continue using our facilities to provide robust, intensive residential services. In fact, our staff are excited about opportunities to specialize and implement new evidence-based treatment programs which target populations of children with specific needs. We will continue doing good work. For more than a decade we have tracked our outcomes and results of care using instruments like CAFAS. The outcomes of our residential treatment programs are good … but we do not stop. We constantly tweak our efforts to provide the best care possible to children and their families.

Our growth in the future will happen as we expand our current home and community-based services across the state and as we develop new services designed to intervene early and prevent the larger problems that lead to residential care. One of our long-held value statements begins, "Children belong with their families."

The expansion of prevention and early intervention efforts will occur directly in the homes and communities of families – where hurting people live – by staff who have been trained to intervene early and resolve family crises, arrange community-based supports, and create personalized, family-focused plans of care to alleviate the distress families experience.

These are exciting times in what has recently been reframed as behavioral health care. Louisiana is rolling out a new Coordinated System of Care (CSoC) for children in and at-risk of out-of-home placements. If done well, this will be a good thing for Louisiana.

I believe it will take a time to achieve the goal, but one measure of Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care’s success and a measure of how successful our own home and community-based efforts are over time will be a reduction in the use of residential care for children.

Whenever possible, "Children belong with their families."

With gratitude for your support of our ministry to children and families,

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