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One of the most intense jobs at the Home is that of the Mental Health Specialist. It is a high calling and a difficult duty. Mental Health Specialists are in the trenches and on the line. They are the hands of our agency ministering directly to our residents. Their work requires heart, compassion, patience, wisdom, kindness, the strength to turn the other cheek and the ability to forgive.
Mental Health Specialists build relationships with adolescents who have few relationship skills. They care for children who do not often have the ability to care in return. We have exceptional Mental Health Specialists and I am grateful to all them for the excellent care they provide, their commitment to our kids, and their pursuit our mission in Louisiana.
History of Direct Care Staff
Through the years, the titles of those who have been most directly involved in providing care to our residents have changed. From the beginning of our orphanage days a Matron was responsible for managing a whole house of kids. Then, in the 60’s, House Parents cared for up to 12 children in a house. House parants were mature couples who were willing to live in a house with a dozen kids.
In the 70’s we added Child Care Workers to support the House Parents. In the 90’s as our House Parents retired, we replaced them with House Supervisors. As the behavioral and emotional needs of our residents continued to increase, we added Assistant Supervisors to assist with supervision so that our residents received direct care from a House Supervisor, an Assistant Supervisor and Child Care Specialists. Depending on the needs of our kids and the level of care they required our staffing ratios have varied by need. Some intensive care units like programs in the Scott Building in Ruston have had a 1 staff to 2 child ratio. Other less intensive units have had a 1:4 ratio.
Mental Health Specialists
Among the changes made this year to the child welfare system in Louisiana, new licensing rules specify the requirements and staffing ratios of Mental Health Specialists. Because we care for more than 16 children at each of our locations, we can only provide residential services as psychiatric residential treatment facilities. This new license requires at least a 1:3 staffing ratio. We do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The staff who provide this direct care are now called Mental Health Specialists.
You can learn more about the position on our Career Opportunities page but here are the minimum qualifications:
Minimum Qualifications: Must have no criminal history and have an excellent driving record. Must have or be actively pursuing a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in a mental health-related field (including, but not limited to sociology, criminal justice, nursing, marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation counseling, psychological counseling and other professional counseling); or have earned a Bachelor’s degree in any field and be pursuing a graduate degree in a mental health-related field and have completed at least two courses in that identified field; or be a licensed Certified Nursing Assistant with two years experience; or have a high school degree or a GED and have two years (full-time paid or equivalent) experience providing direct services in a mental health, physical health, social services, educational or correctional setting.
Caring for children as a Mental Health Specialist is not for the weak-hearted. It is work that requires a strong, kind heart and stamina. However, if you have a heart for children, the work will exercise your heart, challenge you constantly and give you opportunities to care for children and adolescents with significant emotional and behavioral needs.