Rick Wheat, President and CEO
Rick Wheat, President and CEO
Speaking in a Sunday School class recently, I explained the changes Louisiana is making to the state’s child welfare system and how these changes are impacting our services to children and families. I was asked, “Rick, with all this stuff going on, why does the Home continue as a United Methodist agency?”

My response was simple and unequivocal, “that’s who we are!” I want to share three reasons we cherish our Methodist heritage.

First, to our very core, we are United Methodist.

We were founded by Methodists more than 110 years ago. 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. Our philosophy of care and our theology of ministry are grounded in Methodism.

Without doubt, we are a ministry of Louisiana Methodists. In addition to Methodism being deep in our DNA, being a United Methodist agency is the source of our strength. I have no doubt that during each of our more than 40,000 days of uninterrupted ministry in Louisiana, Methodists have prayed for us. Nearly a dozen people across Louisiana shared with me today that they are praying for us. We thrive on that!

Second, there is incredible strength in being a United Methodist ministry.

This has been a difficult year to participate in the Louisiana’s child welfare system. Louisiana is creating a managed care system for behavioral health. The changes brought by the new Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership and the Coordinated System of Care have drastically impacted many of the child care agencies in Louisiana are trying to transition into the new system. This has been a hard year across the state.

(Note: I believe in the future we will all look back and know CSoC was a good thing to have happened in Louisiana. It will reduce the number of kids removed from their families and will increase prevention and early intervention services in local communities. Children should live with their families.)

Because each of our Methodist children’s homes in Louisiana cares for more than 16 youth, Louisiana’s new licensing regulations require 24-hour nursing staff, 24-hour mental health staff, increased psychiatric care, a one to three staffing ratio, and the staff to provide medical care in our own facilities. These regulations greatly increase the cost of care.

We have added 50 new staff positions during the last year and have grown to more than 450 employees in Louisiana. We need these new staff members so we can meet the new licensing standards established by Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals. We must hold these new licenses so we can continue caring for the children in Louisiana with the greatest emotional and behavioral needs.

While Louisiana helps pay for the care of children who are in the custody of the state, no state agency pays enough to cover the full cost of care. Nor do insurance companies. Certainly, no family can. While other child care agencies have had to step away from the challenge of caring for Louisiana’s neediest children, the financial support of United Methodists allows us to continue pursuing our mission and be the hands of the Church for children and families.

Without the charitable gifts of United Methodists, we would be forced to close up shop. It is that simple. The support of United Methodists allows us to continue in ministry to families and children across Louisiana.

Third, we are not alone in our work of ministry.

Louisiana’s United Methodists care for children and families in communities across the state. United Methodists are also actively involved in our work of ministry. Never a week passes without a local United Methodist congregation participating in our ministry by visiting our children and staff to provide a meal, a party, an excursion, or a Bible study. United Methodists participate in our ministry to children.

In fact, in this Pathways you will read an article about Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans’ sudden search for a new place to call “Home”. As a transition to a permanent Home, we are four years into a ten year lease of facilities at Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville. The Department of Health and Hospitals just announced the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital. We must relocate within eight months.

No one knows where Methodist Home for Children of Greater New Orleans will be in eight months. However, I know this without doubt: we will continue caring for children and families in the greater New Orleans area because we are supported by United Methodist heads, hearts and hands.

So why are we United Methodist? It’s in our DNA – it is literally who we are. It is the source of our strength and allows our 450 staff to do the hardest work of ministry. It means we are not alone. 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.

Thank you for loving the Home, for supporting our ministry with your gifts and prayers, and for being actively involved in our ministry to children!

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