Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spiritual Development Weekend 2018

For around 20 years, Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) has hosted spiritually focused weekends for its young residents. The time is meant to challenge youth to discuss and grow in their faith.

This year’s Spiritual Development (SD) Weekend took place March 16-18 and included a concert, worship services, speakers and a lunch for seniors. The Spiritual Development ministers have been taking residents through the book of Acts and discussing the early church. The theme of “story” continued throughout the weekend as they focused on how each person has a part in the overall story of God’s people.

Residents were treated to a concert on Friday evening and welcomed musical guests Austin Lanier and Capital G. Kim Clark, director of spiritual development at MCH, said Capital G participated in SD weekend before and one of the MCH ministers had heard Lanier at a prior event. The artists also spoke to students during events on Saturday.

“We desire to expose our students to a variety of men and women living lives of service to Christ,” Clark said. “We hope our students see that following Christ is a daily choice that can (and should) be the focus and purpose of how they spend their time, talent and efforts. Sometimes, hearing from a successful artist/speaker outside of this community helps us convey that.”

During the concert, several MCH students also performed their original pieces including poetry, piano, and raps.

Clark said hosting a lunch on Saturday for seniors who will be graduating in May allowed SD ministers time to speak with the youth one-on-one as they prepare to transition from the residential program.

“We always look forward to time alone with the seniors,” she said. “We want to make them feel special because graduating is a huge accomplishment, but we also want to have some frank discussions about what can be expected after graduation. Our hope is they will start incorporating practices and habits into their lives while they are here that will make it easier for them to make good choices in the future.

“We ask them to identify adults in their lives that will be on their side and offer assistance,” she added. “We ask them what their plan is after graduation, and we talk about what it looks like to continue their journey with Christ when no one is making them get up for church on Sunday morning.”

Spiritual Development Weekend closed with a worship service on Sunday morning to conclude the events.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New partnership provides furniture for MCH Family Outreach families

From left: Kelsey Taylor (case manager), Aletta,
and Ted Randall (Bryan outreach director) at Aletta's new home.

Aletta, a mother in Bryan, Texas, who is supporting 16-year-old twin daughters and a 10-year-old daughter, recently received a couch and matching chairs for her new apartment thanks to a partnership formed between MCH Family Outreach in Bryan/College Station and FEMA. Aletta has been working to improve her family’s situation and said the furniture was a helpful addition.

“I was very surprised,” Aletta said. “Really, I am blessed. I have been blessed with everything that has happened with MCH from the beginning.”
Aletta has been working with MCH for five months and through the support of her daughters and MCH case manager, Kelsey Taylor, has made positive changes.

“Change can be hard but when you have someone who knows you can do it – someone that really believes in you – that makes you want to go for that change,” Aletta said. “It is the extra voice that really helps. This program has been life-changing.”

The furniture Aletta received through FEMA was used in portable homes taken to disaster areas for families to live in while their homes are repaired. Once they are done with the homes, FEMA cleans and preps the hard-surface furniture and homes for the next use. However, any “soft” furniture, such as couches or fabric chairs, cannot be reused at sites and is donated to nonprofit organizations.

Bryan/College Station case manager Susan Hays said she learned about the FEMA resource from friends at another local nonprofit and contacted them to inquire about furniture for MCH clients. This call resulted in a collaboration that has greatly benefitted MCH families working to get back on their feet, according to Ted Randall, director of MCH Family Outreach in Bryan/College Station.

“This partnership has met a significant need for some of our families,” Randall said. “We have families who were living in substandard conditions and are able to move, but could not afford new furniture. This partnership has allowed us to supply furniture to these families. We have also been able to provide beds or pull-out couches to families who did not have enough sleeping areas for all of their family members.”
Randall said FEMA allowed them to walk through the staging area where furniture is stored to pick items that could be used by their families. They then store the furniture in the office until they are able to deliver it to families.

“Most of the furniture we get looks brand new,” Randall said.

He said they have received couches, chairs, bed frames and FEMA even received approval to donate mattresses still in its original plastic wrap that were in a home sent into the field. So far the furniture has blessed a single mother of six children as well as Aletta’s family.

“My story, it’s been a road to get here,” Aletta said. “But there is momentum. It is going good; it is going more than good.”

MCH staff members deliver the furniture to Aletta's new apartment.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

MCH Family Outreach leads parent education for residential staff

Methodist Children’s Home staff are working together to share knowledge in order to better serve children, youth and families. Staff from MCH Family Outreach in Waco are currently leading a Circle of Security (COS) parenting course for home parents from the MCH Boys Ranch to provide them with more insight and understanding as they care for youth in the residential program.

“This is an effort to better support our direct care staff and give them more tools to help them be more effective,” explained Moe Dozier, vice president for programs. “It also includes components of self-care which will be helpful for staff.”
Dozier said the idea to train residential staff in COS came about last fall when they identified that residential caregivers deal with a lot of the same issues parents do. They first shared the model of care with unit managers. Home parents from the Boys Ranch began the training in December 2017, and classes for Waco campus direct care staff will commence in 2018. 

MCH Family Outreach began implementing COS in 2016 as an additional parenting education model. The model includes an eight-week curriculum based on attachment theory and research that shows “secure children exhibit increased empathy, greater self-esteem, better relationships with parents and peers, enhanced school readiness, and an increased capacity to handle emotions more effectively when compared with children who are not secure.”

In the COS model, parents/caregivers are shown that as children go out and explore the world around them, parents/caregivers can provide them with encouragement and a secure base or safe haven for when they return to them. The model helps parents/caregivers understand the child’s emotions and be there to support them by providing comfort, protection and help in dealing with their feelings.
COS also helps parents/caregivers recognize their own triggers that make them feel unable to deal with a situation and provides them with tools to overcome these triggers in order to handle the child’s needs.

“Our hope in sharing COS with residential and ranch staff is to create a space for staff to reflect on their caregiving experiences, become more attuned to the attachment needs we all have and further support the utilization of Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI),” said Brooke Davilla, director of MCH Family Outreach in Waco.

“As an agency we are fortunate to be exposed to many quality trainings and want to ensure that we maximize those opportunities by sharing with any staff who would benefit,” Davilla said. “We have greatly enjoyed the experience of building relationships across our MCH departments.”
Home parents have shared positive feedback about the classes and collaboration with MCH Family Outreach staff.

“I really enjoyed doing the activity that helped us identify and relate to things from our childhood and how they affected us growing up and still today,” said Vivian Thomas, home parent at the Boys Ranch. “The activity brought to the forefront some issues which definitely helps me relate to everyday emotions I see within the youth we work with.”

Waco case managers Ana Chatham and Sara Beth Stoltzfus are leading the biweekly classes to coordinate with the home parents’ weekly schedule.
“It has been a wonderful experience working with the ranch staff,” Stoltzfus said. “They add new depth and meaning to this curriculum. I can tell they are already terrific home parents but it appears that the class has still been a beneficial time of reflection and unique way to discuss the needs of the kids in our care.”