August 2009

Women credit GAs for missions lifestyle

August 12 2009 by Claudean Boatman, Woman’s Missionary Union

Every girl a GA.

That’s the current emphasis of Girls in Action (GAs), the missions organization for girls in first through sixth grade, to encourage missions education in the local church. It’s also a message that resonates with four women — former GAs whose lives were greatly influenced through their GA participation as they developed a heart for missions.  

The importance of a missional lifestyle was instilled in Mary Lochridge of Kings Mountain, through her participation in Girls Auxiliary (now Girls in Action) as a young girl. Years later, she and her husband, James, were appointed as missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board or IMB) and served in the Philippines for 27 years. Lochridge organized Girls in Action, introducing girls to the concepts of giving, praying and serving God. More than 20 years in retirement, she still speaks to GAs about missions.

Contributed photo

Taylor Long of South Carolina enjoys supporting missionaries including sending packets to prisoners.

Judy Phillips of Madison, Fla., began attending GAs in fourth grade. She came from a broken home with a mother who had to work. Although such circumstances are common now, in 1959 Phillips said she felt alone and dejected. But each Monday after school, she walked to West Highland Baptist Church. There she was accepted despite her family background.

“Those leaders,” Phillips said, “took me under their wings. I could feel good about myself.” Three years after becoming a GA, Phillips asked Jesus into her life.

Through GA missions activities, Phillips began a life of service that continues 50 years later. Among many other things, she’s taught GAs and Royal Ambassadors, and served as a Missions Service Corps volunteer.

Current Girls in Action members also find relevance and purpose in their GA involvement. Jessica Gulledge first became involved in GAs when she moved to Georgia. She is a GA now at Shirley Hills Baptist Church, she said, because they help other people. “GAs is possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she said.

Taylor Long, a GA from Pine Grove Baptist Church in Walterboro, S.C., likes GA parties and activities. More than those, though, she looks forward to doing missions. For example, her group plays handbells at the area nursing home, sends care packages to prison inmates, and provides Christmas presents for people who may not have any otherwise.

Learn about a GA program in your church by calling Cara Lynn Vogel at (866) 210-8602.

8/12/2009 6:42:00 AM by Claudean Boatman, Woman’s Missionary Union | with 1 comments



Christmas offering supports NAMB

August 12 2009 by Jessie Gable, Woman’s Missionary Union

Thanks to members of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) missions organizations, Christmas continues to come early for North American missionaries.

Since 1927, WMU has partnered with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to provide Christmas in August for NAMB missionaries by providing them with supplies needed for their ministries.

NAMB supplies the list of Christmas in August missionaries and their identified needs so that Mission Friends, GAs, Children in Action, Acteens, and others can collect and send the requested items.

One of the Christmas in August missionaries is in North Carolina.

Charles Reed of Greater Cleveland Baptist Association is requesting items be donated to help ministries in that area.

“In the current economic climate we are delighted to get the resources we requested,” Reed said. With 81 churches “working in concert” to meet the needs of the community, Reed said it “is icing on the cake to get Christmas in August.” One church group from Tennessee came on a recent Thursday night and gave the ministry a shower on Friday morning before feeding lunch to street people.

“Mission groups want to know what the needs are and how the resources will be used,” Reed said. A recent block party at the association office in Shelby fed hamburgers and hot dogs to people as well as provided grade-appropriate bookbags with supplies to children whose parents had applied earlier.

Once collected, these items are mailed by church groups to the missionaries who use them to expand their ministries in the communities they serve.

A complete list of Christmas in August NAMB missionaries, including names, addresses and needs lists, can be found at www.namb.net.

Reed’s requested items: children’s socks, children’s underwear, school supplies (for all ages); toothpaste and toothbrushes; combs and hairbrushes; washcloths; socks for men and women; toboggan caps; Bibles (adult and children’s editions); toiletry items; LifeWay gift cards to purchase Bibles. Contact Reed, Greater Cleveland Baptist Association, 1175 Wyke Rd., Shelby, NC 28150; (704) 482-3472; charles@gccba.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Gable, a student at the University of Alabama, is a summer intern in the WMU communications office.)

8/12/2009 6:40:00 AM by Jessie Gable, Woman’s Missionary Union | with 0 comments



Gospel planted on ‘The Tail of the Dragon’

August 12 2009 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Each year, thousands of motorcyclists travel to Tennessee to ride “The Tail of the Dragon.”

“The Dragon,” as it is commonly referred to, is a stretch of U.S. Highway 129 that runs from the intersection of Highway 72 outside Maryville, Tenn., through the Great Smoky Mountains into Deals Gap, N.C.

The 11-mile stretch of road boasts 318 curves — a motorcyclist’s dream.

BP photo

Kurt Bradley, a volunteer from East Maryville Baptist Church in Maryville, Tenn., prepares to photograph a group of motorcyclists while Dennis Scott, far right, pastor of Sand Hill Baptist Church in Gleason, Tenn., visits with motorcyclists taking a break from riding “The Dragon,” a curve-filled 11-mile stretch of road in eastern Tennessee.

Last year, missions volunteers, working through Chilhowee Baptist Association’s Camp Tipton in Maryville, began a ministry on that stretch of highway. Teams from Tennessee and other states passed out water or lemonade to cyclists at a scenic overlook along the route.

This year, volunteers added another element — taking photos of the motorcyclists from an overlook with a breathtaking mountain view in the background, with the goal of sharing the gospel.

“Our focus is to connect with people and allow the Holy Spirit to show us where we can present the gospel to that person,” said Kurt Bradley, a volunteer at Camp Tipton and member of East Maryville Baptist Church.

Andy Jordan, director of Camp Tipton, stresses to volunteer teams that they go to the overlook with “the frame of mind that you are going there to plant seeds.”

If the opportunity to present the gospel does not happen, however, all is not lost, thanks to the photography element of the ministry. The photographs have become a key tool in reaching the motorcyclists.

“A picture goes a long way,” Jordan said.

Those who are photographed can go to the Camp Tipton web site and download the photo for free, but in the process each individual hears a full presentation of the gospel via a Billy Graham video clip. It also includes a clear invitation for the individual to profess faith in Jesus Christ.

“If we don’t have the opportunity to present the gospel face to face, they will have another chance to meet the Lord,” Bradley said.

Both Bradley and Jordan said motorcyclists have been very receptive to the ministry at the overlook site.

Church teams from various places have ministered on “The Dragon.” In early July, a team from Sand Hill Baptist Church in Gleason, Tenn., traveled cross-state to minister at several locations in the area, including “The Dragon.”

It was the first mission trip for the church and most of the 24 participants, Sand Hill Pastor Dennis Scott said.

“We had been wanting to do something like this,” Scott said, noting the church made it a “family mission trip.”

Nick Bowers, the church’s music leader, has served on other mission teams, and he was excited about his church’s participation in the East Tennessee trip.

“It’s been a great week,” Bowers said. “This has brought our small country church together.”

For more information about the ministries provided by Camp Tipton, visit camptipton.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

8/12/2009 6:36:00 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



NAMB president Hammond, 3 associates resign

August 11 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — President Geoff Hammond and three of his closest associates resigned their positions with the North American Mission Board Tuesday after trustees met more than seven hours in executive session at the board's Alpharetta, Ga., headquarters.

The three staff members who also resigned were Dennis Culbreth, senior assistant to the president; Steve Reid, senior associate to the president for strategy development; and Brandon Pickett, communications team leader.

Their resignations came after 54 of the board's 57 trustees met in an all-day closed session. Four of the 54 trustees participated by conference call.

Until the announcement of the resignations, there was no word from trustees throughout the day about either the substance of their discussions or their progress toward a resolution.

Tim Patterson, chairman of the board of trustees, issued a statement after the meeting, thanking trustees for carrying out responsibilities in “a way that has been honorable, thorough and fair,” he wrote.

“As you can imagine, these last few days have been very challenging for Dr. Hammond and his family, our trustees and the employees and missionaries of the North American Mission Board,” Patterson continued. “We will continue to be in prayer for Dr. Hammond, his family, and for the families of the others who have resigned.

“I want to thank Southern Baptists for their prayers and ask that they continue praying. We have much work left to do as we seek God’s guidance in these days,” Patterson wrote. “I still believe that God has great plans for the North American Mission Board and that NAMB will play a key part in the Southern Baptist effort to reach North America for Christ.”

Citing a need to keep details of the discussion during the meeting “confidential” because of it being a “personnel matter,” in spite of “much media speculation,” Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, said that nonetheless more information would be forthcoming “very soon.”

The meeting initially was to involve only members of NAMB's executive committee — a smaller group within the board of trustees -- but members of the whole board learned about the meeting's agenda and succeeded in calling for a meeting of the full board.

The son and grandson of missionaries, Hammond, before taking over as president, was a NAMB church planting missionary with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) convention. He also was senior associate director of the SBCV.

He was elected president by a unanimous vote of the NAMB board in March 2007 following a nine-month search to replace the previous president, Robert E. Reccord, who resigned as president in April 2006, citing "honest philosophical and methodological differences."

All three of the associates who resigned had close working relationships with Hammond before he became NAMB president. Reid and Pickett were on staff with Hammond at SBCV. Culbreth was a pastor in Chesapeake, Va., a NAMB trustee and member of the search committee that brought Hammond to the mission board.

The board meeting comes at a time when NAMB is embarking on an ambitious partnership with state conventions and local associations to see every SBC church, by 2020, planting other churches. The evangelical initiative is called God's Plan for Sharing (GPS).

(EDITOR'S NOTE — Additional reporting by Florida Baptist Witness.)
8/11/2009 3:09:00 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Morgan’s smile welcomes children for decades

August 11 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Linda Morgan crystallizes the plight of thousands of children by telling the stories of a few whose pain represents the many she’s ministered to in 36 years at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).

“We served a little boy who had been locked in the closet all of his life,” says Morgan quietly, memory giving her pause even as she shares. “He came to us at age 12 and wore size 3 clothes. We served a young lady who saw her mom pass away and a girl who saw her mother kill her father with an ax…”

Morgan, who started in 1973 as a secretary at the Broyhill Home campus in Clyde while it was still under construction, grew in responsibility until four years ago she was named director of BCH’s western area services.

Her constant smile and relentless love for children made her the face of that area many years ago.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Linda Morgan

She is not impressed with herself or her title. A frequent speaker in churches she introduces herself simply as Linda Morgan, child of God, who works for Baptist Children’s Homes.

“God allowed me to come at that time to allow me to see His hand being used in that area to help people support BCH and turn that little blackberry patch into a haven of hope for kids and their families,” Morgan said of her involvement since the third of the original five cottages was under construction.

She saw people sacrifice for the hope they had and the help they heard was on the way. Haywood Baptist Association churches held penny drives to fund the cottage that bears their name.

A Haywood County girl herself, Morgan attended groundbreaking in1969, little knowing a few years later she would start working there and eventually rededicate her life to Christ and Christian service in the parking lot, after watching Christian child care workers demonstrate what it means to live surrendered to Christ.

“From that point on I felt that was where God wanted me. He had a special place for me there and had special plans,” she said. “I’ve never changed my thoughts about that.”

Now their supervisor, Morgan says the child care workers and staff at BCH are “God called.”

“You can see the way He uses them when you’re dealing with troubled children,” she said. “In a day and age when resident care is not considered the placement of choice, God has places such as Broyhill Home and BCH, and He uses the people He sends there just like home missionaries.”

Children who come into the care of Baptist Children’s Homes come from dysfunctional families disrupted by abuse, neglect, divorce, poverty and bad decisions. “They come from families who need us as much as the children need us,” Morgan said. Parents need parenting skills, to learn how to establish discipline and set boundaries and nurture values.

“Kids need someone and want someone to tell them what to do, to tell them the difference between right and wrong,” Morgan said. “If no one is there, they make their own choices.”

Children who enter care angry and defiant learn they are safe and can begin to trust and feel good about themselves. At that point they can implement change and begin to see a future for themselves other than the negative, destructive prospects patterned by their families and friends.

Morgan, 56, is concerned about changes in government funding that straps North Carolina counties for funds to support the 10,000 children in their custody. While residential placement like BCH often is in the best interest of the child, decisions will be made not on quality of care, but on quantity of cash.

Even at when a department of social services places a child in care and pays the state-mandated “board rate,” the payment doesn’t come close to covering the cost of care. In BCH’s 124-year history North Carolina Baptist churches have made the difference with their support.

Morgan has witnessed countless special moments in her nearly four decades of service to children. As a whole the ones she remembers most vividly are “those moments when you see memories being made in a child’s life,” she said. She lists a child’s first sight of the ocean or walk on the beach; a first roller coaster ride or when they realize they have their own room and yes, that they can eat a second meal that day…and even a third.

Morgan, whose only children are those she pours her life into at BCH, sees those moments in children and regrets their parents’ missed opportunities. She loves to see sparkle return to the eyes of children who entered care angry, defiant and lost.

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said, “mending a broken heart and seeing a life change.”

That work is a partnership, she said, between BCH and North Carolina Baptists who support it day by day with dollars and prayers.
Related stories
N.C. ranks low for children's welfare
BCH to restart foster care program
Children’s status getting ‘worse and worse’
Faith groups can protect children
Editorial: BCH residential care should be priority in child placement
Spoke'n: NC near bottom for children's welfare

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8/11/2009 9:16:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 3 comments



N.C. ranks low for children’s welfare

August 11 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

North Carolina ranks only 37th among 50 states for the overall health and welfare of its children, according to the annual “Kids Count” report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Annie E. Casey Foundation, with $2.3 billion in assets, is the nation’s largest foundation devoted to children’s welfare.

Every year it releases an exhaustive report measuring 10 primary indicators of overall health and welfare, and dozens of sub-indicators.

The 2009 report does not reveal any major shifts up or down in North Carolina indicators, but the health, education, family income and opportunity for North Carolina’s children puts their plight in the bottom quarter of states.

The deep south states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama rank at the bottom of the list. New Hampshire, Minnesota and Utah are at the top.

Among the main categories measured are demographics, education, economic well being, health and risk factors. These include number of children abused, those in out-of-home placements and other factors.

In North Carolina, “Kids Count” reports that 13.1 percent of children have no health insurance and 9.2 percent of infants are born with low birth weight, which can be a health indicator later in life.

Five percent of children live in households where no adults work, but more surprising, fully one-third of children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. So, not surprisingly, 19.5 percent of children live in poverty.

In North Carolina 88,000 female headed families, or 30 percent of all female headed families, receive child support.

In 2007, the latest compiled year of statistics, 122,132 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported, an increase of 3,000 over the previous year. Of those reported, 15,058 were substantiated, a decrease of 5,515.

The number of children in foster care in 2008 was 15,773, down from 17,008 in 2007. These numbers may differ from state figures which indicate how many are in foster care at the time.

Annie E. Casey Foundation says in North Carolina 14 of every thousand children in foster care were “maltreated.”

That is down from 35 in 2007, but is an indicator of the difficulties in the system. That percentage would mean that 220 children in the foster care system last year were “maltreated.”

Twenty-five children died from abuse in North Carolina in 2007, according to the report.

Statistics show that just 53.1 percent of foster care children are reunited with family within 12 months. Of those, 4.8 percent are back in the foster care system within a year.

 In North Carolina children in the system who have “no more than two different placements in one year” was 87.9 percent, an increase in the placement churning from 2005, when 91.9 percent stayed in no more than two different placements in a year.

One third of North Carolina’s children are in single parent homes and five percent of all children are in the care of grandparents. About six percent of children live with unmarried partners, the same percentage as live with neither parent.

Related stories
Morgan's smile welcomes children for decades
BCH to restart foster program
Children’s status getting ‘worse and worse’
Faith groups can protect children
Editorial: BCH residential care should be priority in child placement
Spoke'n: NC near bottom for children's welfare

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8/11/2009 9:12:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Men go for ‘Bigger Breakfast’

August 11 2009 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Men’s ministry is tough work. Just ask Dennis Herrera. After three years of working with men as a lay leader at Woodlake Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, Herrera knows it’s often tough to get men together for anything — even for a good breakfast and prayer.
 
But last Oct. 20, men showed up for a prayer breakfast at the small Southern Baptist church. It was one of the biggest breakfast turnouts of the year. Although Woodlake hosts a similar men’s prayer breakfast every month, last October’s was unique. Not only was the meal modeled around a British breakfast — complete with British Bangers, a traditional kind of sausage — but they joined more than 3,000 other Baptist men around the world to eat, pray and worship together in a first-time event called “The Bigger Breakfast.” The Baptist Men’s Movement in the United Kingdom sponsored the event.
 
“I think the men seemed to be motivated to be a part of the event and add to the totals of the British men attending,” Herrera said.
 
The Baptist Men’s Movement had aimed to break the Guinness World Record for the largest breakfast, a record ironically held by a Texas group. They fell short, but this year the Brits will have more help. Southern Baptist men in the United States and Canada, along with Nigerian Baptist men, will be joining them on Oct. 10, 2009, for what could become the new world record.
 
But Southern Baptists helping organize the convention’s involvement have a bigger vision for the event’s outcome than simply breaking a record.
 
“The sleeping giants in Southern Baptist churches are our laymen,” said Jim Burton, team leader for mission education at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. “The Bigger Breakfast is Southern Baptists’ opportunity to gather our men and discover — or for many churches to rediscover — the synergy that can come from their focus on missions.”
 
Burton says Southern Baptists will focus on mission action — both in their communities and beyond — during the breakfast. Held a day before the convention’s World Hunger Day, Southern Baptist men will highlight the World Hunger Fund at the event. They are also being encouraged to invite their non-Christian friends to the breakfast and present the gospel to them.
 
British Baptists started The Bigger Breakfast last year in an attempt to re-ignite spiritual passion among the country’s Baptist men. Phil Creighton, vice-president of the Baptist Men’s Movement in the U.K., pointed to statistics that came out a few years ago from Tearfund suggesting there would be virtually no men in U.K. churches by 2028.
 
“That’s a scary prospect,” said Creighton, who first came up with The Bigger Breakfast idea last year. “Obviously, we need to do something about that. We need to show men that being a follower of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean you’re weak, but you can be an ordinary bloke and still follow Christ.”
 
Creighton had seen the value of men’s breakfasts in his own life. When he was a young Christian, those he met at men’s breakfasts in his church became key mentors for him. But in recent years, Creighton notes, the number of churches hosting men’s breakfasts has dropped considerably.
 
With a year of experience in getting churches involved in The Bigger Breakfast around the U.K., Creighton has advice for churches as they try to reach non-Christians through the event. He encourages them to be creative when inviting non-Christians and to focus on “what you do well.”
 
“Every church should focus on what their church does best,” Creighton said. “The key to getting non-Christians to an event like this is that they feel welcomed and wanted. If you’re trying to do something with fireworks or an American football tournament and you have mostly older men, it might not work so well. Whatever you do, do it well, do it for God and do it to the best of your abilities.”
 
A handful of Southern Baptist churches participated in The Bigger Breakfast last year, but this is the first time there’s been a coordinated effort to involve Southern Baptists in the event on a large scale.
 
Southern Baptists looking for help to plan the event can find meeting plans and a speaker outline online at www.bmen.net/breakfast. Churches also are encouraged to register on the web site and report their highlights and attendance after the event. These totals will be added with the British and Nigerian Baptists’ numbers to determine if the existing world record has been surpassed.
 
Burton hopes Southern Baptist churches can use The Bigger Breakfast to ignite their men’s ministries.
 
“We encourage churches not to treat The Bigger Breakfast as just an event,” Burton said. “For many churches, The Bigger Breakfast can launch significant men’s work in their church as men consider their role in missions. With the Baptist Men’s ‘40-day Prayer Plan for Spiritual Awakening’ we’re encouraging churches to use following the breakfast, our prayer is that churches will discern God’s heart on what He wants to do with men’s work in their church.”
 
The 40-day Prayer Plan for Spiritual Awakening can be found at www.bmen.net/prayer. Burton notes that the churches wanting to continue meeting regularly to mobilize their men on mission can use the weekly BMEN Online curriculum, launched in January of this year.
 
“We’re convinced that this is a critical time to reconnect men to the mission of the church,” Burton said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Perry is editor of Crusader magazine for the Royal Ambassador program at the North American Mission Board.)

 

8/11/2009 9:09:00 AM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



BCH to restart foster care program

August 10 2009 by BR Staff

Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH), a foster home pioneer in the 1970s, will again offer the service, in part because residential services have lost favor among county social workers who place at-risk children outside their home.

A $180,000 grant from the Duke Endowment is helping BCH re-establish its foster homes, which will start first in the west as soon as foster families are identified and trained. BCH President Michael C. Blackwell said foster homes will diversify the BCH service mix and enable BCH to serve more children.

About 300 children on any given day currently live in BCH residential facilities across the state. Typically 8 to 10 children live in cottages with full-time house parents.

BCH was an early advocate of foster care, training and supervising a network of foster parents in the 1970s, but the work faded as the state began relying more on its own foster care system for children in its custody.

Of the nearly 10,000 children in the custody of county departments of social services in North Carolina, one-third are in foster homes. DSS officials say that when they have to take custody of a child, the first option is for the child to stay with relatives. If that can’t be worked out, social workers try to place the child in a foster home.

Residential care, like that offered by BCH and about 40 other organizations in North Carolina, is only used when other options aren’t available.

The foster care system regularly comes under fire when a child in care is injured, dies or commits a crime.

Kevin Kelley, assistant section chief for family support and child welfare services for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Social Services, said that while the foster care system is not perfect, he believes it is generally healthy.

“We could always improve, but we think we have a good system,” he said.

For a home to be licensed for foster care, all adults living there must pass a background check. DSS officials also must determine if the area is a safe living environment, he said.

Kelley said the larger the pool of available foster parents the better officials can match the needs of children with the ability of foster parents to meet those needs. “We always need more” foster parents, he said.

Keith Henry, BCH executive vice president for programs and services, feels some families will want to serve as foster families through BCH that had no interest in doing so through the state.

Foster parents receive financial compensation to offset the child’s room, board, and other living expenses. The amount varies but the state recommendations are $475 monthly for newborns to five-year-olds; $581 for children 6 to 12; and $634 for those more than 13 years old, according to the DSS web site.

Foster parents must be at least 21 years old; have a stable home and income; maintain a drug free environment; and complete a training regimen, according to the DSS web site.

Kelley said the training, which is called Model Approaches to Partnerships in Parenting — Group Preparation and Selection (MAPP-GPS), teaches foster parents how foster care is similar to raising their child in some ways but different in others. The training also prepares them for the likelihood that the children won’t be in their care forever.

If the court determines that the parent is ready to care for the child, he or she returns home.

“As soon as the judge says they’re ready to go back, that’s when they go back,” Kelley said.

A child can also leave foster care if a relative who earlier didn’t think they could care for the child decides to take him or her. Kelley said the state’s goal is to have a permanent plan established for the child within 12 months of coming into DSS custody. If the court terminates parental rights or the parents give them up, the child becomes available for adoption. Sometimes foster parents adopt the child they’ve had in care. If not DSS seeks other options.

Kelley said the goal is for the child to have a family atmosphere even after he or she turns 18.

“The goal is still to have those adult connections,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This story is part of a package of stories about the state of children in North Carolina.)

Related stories

Morgan's smile welcomes children for decades
N.C. ranks low for children's welfare
Children’s status getting ‘worse and worse’
Faith groups can protect children
Editorial: BCH residential care should be priority in child placement
Spoke'n: NC near bottom for children's welfare

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8/10/2009 11:01:00 AM by BR Staff | with 0 comments



Children’s status ‘worse and getting worse’

August 10 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

The status of children in North Carolina is “worse and getting worse” than at any time in the 26-year tenure of Baptist Children’s Homes of N.C. president Michael C. Blackwell.

“Because the mental health system is in such a disastrous collapse in North Carolina it’s caused reassessment for everyone,” said Blackwell, who leads North Carolina Baptists’ 124-year-old ministry to hurting children and broken families. A recession pushes 2009-10 state budget cuts even deeper.

In the midst of deteriorating conditions for children in dysfunctional families, county departments of social services which are responsible for child welfare consider placing children in the care of residential facilities like BCH only as a last option, after in-home supervision; placement with relatives or foster care.

Blackwell was told by child welfare visionary Alan Keith-Lucas when he came to BCH in 1983 that he would have to battle a coming “anti-institutional wave.”

That tidal wave has washed over not only BCH, but all of the at least 40 accredited residential child facilities in North Carolina.

In North Carolina “residential” is defined as having a facility in which children stay. Many organizations, including BCH, offer services to children and families that are not residential.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Baptist Children’s Homes of N.C. president Michael C. Blackwell visits with residents of Oak Ranch in Broadway. Blackwell was told when he came in 1983 that he would be fighting an anti-institutional wave.

Services such as in-home counseling to help a family stay together through conflict are valid and important, according to Kevin Kelley, assistant section chief for family support and child welfare services in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Social Services, who affirms such a role for faith based groups. He is not, however, a fan of residential care.

Blackwell laments that government decision makers like Kelley do not see the bread and butter image for children’s homes of 8-10 residents living as “family” in a cottage with resident counselors or “house parents” as a “normal” situation for the children.

Consequently, county social workers try first to keep a child who is at risk for abuse or neglect at home by working with the family members to overcome the issues at root of dysfunction.

Failing that, the child or children are placed with family members who will take them. If no suitable family members step forward, foster homes are the next option.

Siblings are often separated in both family placement and foster home placement.

Because children removed from their home – even for their own safety – often are angry and belligerent, they can wear out their welcomes quickly. They learn they can change their circumstance by acting out negatively so the foster family asks that they be moved. It is not unusual for children “in the system” to have been in 12 or more foster homes when they arrive “as a last resort” at a residential home that was well equipped to provide proper care and stability from the beginning.

Living, breathing organism
Residential care is not a dinosaur, Blackwell said, but a “living, breathing organism.”

He encourages those in charge of placing children to visit the modern cottages, built and furnished as a home environment with private bedrooms, and family living spaces.

“We are a family environment,” he said. “We are ‘BCH family.’”

Karen McLeod, president/CEO of the Children and Family Services Association-NC, said North Carolina needs “a continuum of care to protect our children.” While everyone’s preference would be for each child to live in a highly functioning family, “that is not reality.”

Her client agencies, including BCH, want children who cannot remain in the home, “to be placed in the highest quality service possible.” Because member organizations, which all are accredited by national standards, “strive to meet children’s needs in as homelike a setting as possible to make the children feel cared for and loved,” children “tend to stabilize there.”

Blackwell said he would not still be president of the organization he’s led since 1983 “to preside over a funeral.” He said BCH services are “still leading edge.”

“Come see us. Come eat with us,” he encourages doubters. “Visit with children in our care or with our alumni. Are the children saying they don’t like congregate care? Do you hear them saying, ‘I want to go back with my abusive family?’”

Blackwell gets irked when those who make decisions for children’s care never set foot on a residential campus to see, hear and absorb the atmosphere.

“That really gets to me,” he said. “It always has. People who have no clue and no idea about the productive citizens we turn out in this place can make the statement that we don’t provide the care that the government thinks we should be providing.”

The needs of families “are absolutely more critical than at any time since I’ve been here,” Blackwell said. “Family dysfunction is greater than at any time I’ve seen it.”

Best trained staff
BCH cottage staff, trained and licensed case managers, social work staff and administrators are able to care for children in safe, secure, loving settings. Belligerence is understood and a child doesn’t control his or her own placement by acting out. Staff works with the child and involved family members as the anger dissipates over time.

In 1983 60 percent of the children in BCH care were in the custody of a department of social services, Blackwell said.

Today just 20 percent are in such custody. Other residents are private placements, meaning the family recognizes it needs help and has turned to BCH to care for their child while the dysfunction can be resolved.

Private clients contribute toward the cost of care as they are able. County departments of social services pay a daily board rate determined by the state for the children in their custody, a rate that is high for counties that have no money, but a rate that does not begin to cover the cost of care that BCH provides.

Individual donors and gifts from Baptist churches, the Cooperative Program and Thanksgiving Offering make up the difference in BCH’s $17 million annual budget. “These donors are more important to us now than ever,” Blackwell said.

BCH operates 15 facilities across the state, including four major campuses and Cameron Boys Camp, a wilderness facility where boys live outside year round in shelters they build themselves. A girls wilderness camp will open within six months.

With residential care at the bottom of the totem pole for government custodians, BCH has diversified with special services. It is remodeling three cottages and opening them as transitional living homes for post high school students to master independent living skills while they work or attend community college. Moody Home in Franklin has been re-tasked for that purpose.

BCH also is renovating a cottage at Mills Home in Thomasville where volunteers can stay when they come to work on campus.

Diversification is one reason BCH accepted the responsibility for adult developmentally disabled care, and for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries.

BCH, which was an early advocate of foster care and trained families to provide foster care, is getting back into foster care. It will develop a system to identify and train foster families and is ready for Baptist families that are interested to contact them. To explore the possibilities, call Vicki Buckner at (828) 627-9254.

The family needs “a proven reputation as a family unit” and must be willing to be trained.

“We are getting into it and if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Blackwell said.

Related stories
Morgan's smile welcomes children for decades
N.C. ranks low for children's welfare
BCH to restart foster care program
Faith groups can protect children
Editorial: BCH residential care should be priority in child placement
Spoke'n: NC near bottom for children's welfare

Jennifer Shore's blogs:
From the Alumni's Perspective
She Believed Me
Ewww - What's That Smell?

More stories to come
8/10/2009 10:55:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 2 comments



Faith groups can protect children

August 10 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Faith-based groups can help protect and support children, but their role is changing, a state social services official said.

Kevin Kelley, assistant section chief for family support and child welfare services in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Social Services (DSS), said DSS has formal contracts with some faith-based groups to help parents overcome issues that might cause problems. These programs, called “intensive family preservation” are designed to keep children in the home.

Informally, churches and other groups help out with clothing banks, food banks and parental support groups. But Kelley prefers other options to residential services provided by faith-based organizations personified for North Carolina Baptists by Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Kevin Kelley, assistant section chief for family support and child welfare services in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Social Services, said DSS would rather place children with relatives or in foster homes.

DSS officials would rather place children with relatives or in foster homes than in residential care, which Kelley called more expensive and more restrictive. “It’s only used when it’s absolutely necessary,” he said.

In residential facilities the child doesn’t feel like he or she is in a normal environment, Kelley said. The child might have to switch schools and even if they don’t word quickly spreads that they are in the facility, which has a stigma. The children in residential facilities might also learn negative behavior from their peers, he said.

“The outcomes are not as positive as we would like,” Kelley said.

That opinion is not shared by Michael C. Blackwell, president of BCH since 1983.

“That really gets to me,” Blackwell said. “It always has. People who have no clue and no idea about the productive citizens we turn out in this place can make the statement that we don’t provide the care that the government thinks we should be providing.”

Karen McLeod, president/CEO of the statewide Children and Family Services Association-NC, said there are many forms of residential services, including campuses, group homes, therapeutic homes, juvenile justice home and mental health facilities. DSS would be at a loss for serving children without such placement options. But she confirmed that DSS will only place children in residential group homes when other options are exhausted.

“They do a great job, but they just have a very specific, targeted skill to offer,” Kelley said of BCH’s work.

State records show that in June about 12 percent of children in DSS custody were in residential care or other group homes. About 35 percent were in foster care; about 26 percent were in therapeutic homes that are led by workers with extra training to meet special needs; and about 20.5 percent were staying with a relative.

In all, more than 9,600 children were in DSS custody. That’s down from more than 10,800 four years earlier.

The DSS web site says that the organization’s Child Protective Services program “strives to ensure safe, permanent, nurturing families for children by protecting them from abuse and neglect while attempting to preserve the family unit.”

DSS officials prefer that children be in a family setting, Kelley said. The first choice is a relative since they are more likely to know the child and his or her needs. The second choice is a licensed foster home. DSS officials investigate reports of abuse and neglect with law enforcement agencies. “Our job is to make sure kids are safe from abuse and neglect,” Kelley said.

Any time a county DSS worker has enough information to believe a child cannot be safely maintained in a home, the worker will file a petition with the court and with law enforcement present can take custody of the child. A series of hearings are held with a judge ultimately deciding if a child fits legal definition of abused.

Kelley said the default position is to reunify the child with the family or show why that should not happen. At least every six months the court reviews the case.

Within 12 months the court will make a permanent decision in the case. Kelley said that timeline can be delayed if the parents are making progress toward making it safe for the child to be returned.

The number of children reported as abused or neglected has decreased in recent years, but the change is likely attributed to a difference in the way DSS workers handle cases. The total number of reports handled by DSS workers has gone up, state records show.

During the 2007-2008 fiscal year, 1,106 children were identified as both abused and neglected, down from 1,334 three years earlier.

The number of children “abused” decreased from 1,827 to 1,030 and those “neglected” dropped from 21,274 to 9,804 in that time.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in which DSS workers investigated to determine whether or not families needed special services has more than doubled. These cases resulted from “family assessments” done by social workers in situations other than wrongdoing by the parent.

Law enforcement is seldom involved, Kelley said.

The assessments were started by the state about five years ago, which likely accounts for the large increase. The program gets parents involved in attempts to correct a dysfunctional situation, which might be brought about by underemployment or unemployment, Kelley said. In all, the total number of cases reported to DSS officials has increased from 120,454 in 2004-2005 to 126,918 in 2007-2008. Social workers generally handle about 15 foster care cases or about 10 assessment cases, according to Kelley.

Kelley, who has been a social worker in North Carolina since 1995 and in social work for almost 20 years, said he believes the way children are helped is changing for the better in a number of ways. Workers are more family friendly, the methods are a little more sophisticated and there is less a cloak of secrecy, he said.

DSS officials are better at collecting and analyzing data. The involvement of the federal government has helped states learn from each other, Kelley said.

“The profession is maturing with time,” he said.

Related stories

Morgan's smile welcomes children for decades
N.C. ranks low for children's welfare
BCH to restart foster care program
Children’s status getting ‘worse and worse’
Editorial: BCH residential care should be priority in child placement
Spoke'n: NC near bottom for children's welfare

Jennifer Shore's blogs:
From the Alumni's Perspective
She Believed Me
Ewww - What's That Smell?

More stories to come
8/10/2009 10:49:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 3 comments



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