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On the heels of changes Louisiana made to the state’s child welfare system this past year, those who care about the Home and our ministry to children and families frequently ask questions related to the relationship between Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and the State of Louisiana. Given the complex nature of Louisiana’s new child welfare system and the kaleidoscopic changes which have been wrought, these are good, valid questions.
Never in our state’s history has Louisiana’s child welfare system been more highly regulated. Never has so much significant change occurred in such a compressed period of time than during the last 18 months. Never have things been more complex for those who care for the children who cannot live with their families.
As I travel across the state I frequently answer questions about what these changes mean for the United Methodist children’s homes in Mandeville, Sulphur, and Ruston. I am excited that people across the state want to know how we’re doing, what we’re doing, and – most importantly – how these changes have impacted our ministry to children and families.
A question that surprised me is: "Rick, has the Methodist Children’s Home become a state agency?"
The answer is, "No." The Home has never been, is not now, cannot be, and will not become a state agency. Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, Inc. is fully owned by the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. We are a ministry of the United Methodist Church.
Another recent question is, "Does the government control the Home?"
As with any endeavor, local, state and federal regulations exert control over our absolute freedom. A simple example is that our vehicles must meet state inspection standards. Some of our staff are required to hold state and federal licenses. In fact, government regulations are at play 24 hours a day in nearly everything any person or corporation does. Louisiana’s United Methodist children’s homes are no different.
The most direct control Louisiana’s government has over the Homes is expressed in the laws related to our operational licenses. Just as you must have a state license to go fishing, drive a car, spray pesticides or cut hair for a living, children’s homes must be licensed by the State of Louisiana before they can care for children. This is a good thing because without licenses and licensing inspections there would be no supervision of the care children receive. The licensing rules for the residential services we provide are titled, ‘minimum licensing standards’. We must obey these rules to maintain the licenses which allow us to provide the residential services we provide for children.
One of my favorite questions: "Given the changes Louisiana has made, what does being United Methodist mean to the Home?"
Simply put, United Methodist is who we are. We have always been Methodist. Our roots go back to 1886 in New Orleans when the Methodist Home Hospital was created by the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
So we were founded by Methodists more than 127 years ago in New Orleans. Throughout our history we have been a ministry of Methodism. Our board of directors is approved each year by the Louisiana Annual Conference. The contributions of individual Methodists and Methodist congregations have sustained our ministry to children and families through the decades and are as important now as they have ever been. (We could not have made the transitions required by the creation of Louisiana’s Coordinated System of Care without the financial support of United Methodists.) Our philosophy of care and our theology of ministry are grounded in Methodism.
You can read my longer answer to this question at: The Strength for Ministry.
Being a ministry of United Methodists is the source of our strength and that strength enables our nearly 500 staff to focus on the hardest work of ministry. It means we are not alone in our work. The people of God called United Methodists are actively involved in our mission to guide children and families Home to experience God’s love by following the teaching of Christ.
I thank you for loving our children, for loving the Home, for supporting our ministry with your gifts, talents, time and prayers, and for being so actively involved in our ministry to children and their families!
President and Chief Executive Officer
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services