Thursday, February 4, 2016

MCH expands Training Department

Training staff (from left): Rebekah West, Jean Wright,
John Warren, Ian Bracken and Geoff Nelson
The Training Department at Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) has been evolving to meet the changing needs of our employees and how training is implemented.

MCH has doubled the Training department’s staff from two trainers in 2009 -2014, to four in 2014-2015, and added a fifth in 2015-2016. The scope and focus changed from a department aimed at serving our residential employees to serving the agency as a whole.

“As this change occurred in 2014 the department took on the task of creating an Agency Training Department Manual,” said John Warren, director of training. “This plan was presented and approved in December 2014, and we are currently reviewing and updating it. The manual is designed to help us define our role and for outside departments to understand what we do and how we do it.”

The Training department staff consists of individuals who have worked at MCH for several years in various capacities, including Youth Care Counselors (YCC), unit managers, and Recreation staff, as well as some with experience from working in the community with programs such as the Gear Up program, Communities in Schools, Mission Waco and MHMR.

 “As we have been able, each trainer has been assigned 10 departments, units or groups of employees across our agency which includes the Boys Ranch and our Community Outreach offices, to make monthly contact with regarding their specific training needs,” Warren said.

The Training department has also expanded orientation from five days to eight days for direct care staff and for the third year trainers have been able to provide most of the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) MCH staff receives.

Warren said internal resources as well as outside speakers are used to educate staff.
“Our trainings are more interactive, experiential and fun,” he said. “Training staff has had a leadership role in the creation of and the work brought about by the Welcoming, Mentor and Cultural Awareness committees, all of which  enhance our new employee’s experience.”

The Mentor committee has created a pilot program that is currently running, the Welcoming committee has significantly changed the welcoming experience for our new employees, and the Cultural Awareness committee are having conversations working toward a plan to present that will enhance MCH’s diverse population of both staff and residents.

“We are blessed to work at an agency that places priority on professional development,” said Bryan Mize, vice president of quality improvement and Warren’s supervisor. “MCH is experiencing tremendous growth in the Training department as part of the strategic plan. I am proud of John, Jean, Ian, Geoff and Rebekah as they strive to meet a wide range of training needs. I enjoy watching them use their knowledge, experience and personal gifts and talents to make unique and significant contributions to this ministry.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

MCH joins organizations in support of MCH Family Outreach programs

Methodist Children’s Home recently joined Generations United and the National Foster Parent Association, two national membership organizations who advocate for families. Through these memberships, MCH will be connected to resources and information on issues that impact our families.

“We were looking for nationally recognized organizations or groups that would fit with our core beliefs and practices, but could also provide networking, training and research opportunities,” said Traci Wagner, MCH Family Outreach administrator for the eastern region who researched the organizations for MCH. “These resources will help us to stay current on the needs of children and families, as well as best practices and trends in child welfare and outreach.”

The mission of Generations United (GU) is “to improve the lives of children, youth and older people through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs for the enduring benefit of all.” 

They believe that “grandparents and other adults who step forward to raise children are keeping families together and providing an economic service to our country,” according to the GU website.
Moe Dozier, vice president for programs at MCH, said the Grandparents As Parents Program (GAPP) at MCH has seen a lot of growth in the last couple of years so MCH felt it was a good time to join a national organization that also supports grandparents.

“We want to move toward a more evidence-based approach to GAPP and see what others in the field are doing as we continue to grow our program,” Dozier said.

MCH also joined the National Foster Parent Association, a non-profit organization that supports foster, adoptive and kinship parents nationally. The mission of NFPA is “to support foster parents in achieving safety, permanence and well-being for the children and youth in their care.”

Dozier said MCH has a broad continuum of care through our programs and services so we want to connect to various organizations who specialize in the specific needs of each type of family we serve.

“There is a lot happening at the national and state levels so we want to be members of organizations who will connect us to the latest information on legislation and changes in the field,” he said.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MCH starts mentor pilot program

Mentor Committe members (from left): Austin Brown, Mary Rollins,
Jean Wright, Karen Blanco, Lindsey Fortner, Lindy Dehm;
not pictured - Julie Spiech, Suzanne Frerich
Methodist Children’s Home, guided by the 2011-2015 Strategic Plan has launched a six-month pilot study for a Mentor Program.

Jean Wright, staff trainer, and Suzanne Frerich, unit manager, lead the mentor committee. The mentor committee has spent the past several months devoting time and attention to the new employee experience. Specifically, committee members have assessed the needs and challenges new employees face in their transition to MCH such as connection to the agency, organizational knowledge and MCH culture.

 The pilot study will be held on the Waco campus, Boys Ranch and in two of the MCH Family Outreach offices in Texas.

“The committee anticipates the guidance, support and empowerment from a mentor may help a new employee grow professionally, intellectually and spiritually at MCH,” said Wright.

Committee members have volunteered to mentor new employees during the pilot study and hope to build meaningful relationships, connect new employees to the MCH community, offer support and encouragement, and provide organizational knowledge.

“I am excited about the Mentor Pilot program and hope that new employees will benefit from having a mentor to help guide them through this new journey here at MCH,” said Frerich. “My goal as a mentor is to help mentees build relationships throughout MCH. I feel that relationships are the foundation to being successful in everything we do.”

Julius McCarter, admissions intake coordinator, and new MCH employee, had this to share, “As a young professional and new employee, I am excited that MCH has an employee mentorship program. It can be difficult navigating the waters of a new place of employment. This program provides me with the opportunity to get acclimated to the culture here, while connecting with staff in different departments.”

Wright added, “The result of the pilot program will help the committee make an informed recommendation to executive management this fall. The value of even one meaningful relationship could make a profound impact on how all employees trust and invest in relationships long-term.”

Austin Brown was matched with new employee Julius McCarter
for the mentor pilot program.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Clay Commons hosts Open House

Clay Commons, the latest addition to Methodist Children’s Home, opened its doors to staff to showcase the exciting new opportunity for young adults. The off-campus apartment complex is part of the Independent Living program which provides MCH graduates with help as they transition to adulthood.

“The open house was a huge success,” said Jeff Creel, associate administrator.  “We were happy to have staff from many different departments on campus to tour the apartments.  We are proud to share how our young adults are enjoying a higher level of independence.”

Residents moved in to Clay Commons apartments beginning in August 2015. Through the program, former MCH residents and foster children are able to pay a monthly fee based on their income to live in a furnished apartment as they work or attend school. It is designed to be a next step after the on-campus Independent Living program offering more independence and less supervision while still providing a supportive environment.

Clay Commons has the capacity for 16 residents who live in two-bedroom apartments with a roommate. There are two resident advisors on staff who manage the property and are there to assist residents with questions regarding every day issues. Residents also work with a case manager to develop a plan of service.

“Staff attending were excited and proud of the facilities and the opportunity for our young adults,” Creel said. “We hope they can share that excitement with our youth and encourage them to take advantage of all that MCH offers them to better prepare them for independence and give them hope for the future.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bike tradition continues at MCH

The Grapevine Bike tradition started in the late 1980s. The picture on the left shows
FUMC Grapevine members Stan Hinson and Ray Lusk delivering bikes in 1992.
In the late 1980s, First United Methodist Church of Grapevine began a legacy of giving to Methodist Children’s Home. Each year the church makes sure every child at MCH that wants one will get a bicycle for Christmas.

The tradition began when a few members of the church who were involved with MCH noticed there was a need for bicycles for the children. They decided to organize a donation and the tradition has continued and grown throughout the years.

The process starts back in October when the church contacts MCH to determine the number of bicycles needed. They then negotiate pricing with local stores to purchase the bikes. On the Friday evening before they plan to make the trip to Waco for delivery, church members gather to put the bicycles together and load them onto a truck for transporting.

This year, FUMC Grapevine provided 79 bikes and helmets children in the Dallas and Waco family outreach offices, as well as for residents at the Waco campus and Boys Ranch. Two bikes were also provided for the children of a former resident who is participating in the Transition Services program.

More than 20 church members from Grapevine traveled to the Waco campus on Saturday, Dec. 12 to deliver the bikes and tour the Perkins Heritage Home. They were welcomed by MCH staff and residents who helped them unload the bicycles.

“This is one of our longest standing traditions at MCH,” said Trey Oakley, vice president for development at MCH. “What makes it so special is the church not only does this every year, but they make it a church-wide event. It is a great example of how passionate people are about our ministry.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

MCH Core Value Award for Growth - John Warren

Methodist Children’s Home recognizes staff annually who have exemplified our core values. Staff members are nominated by their peers and recognized at the All-Staff meeting.

Core Values for MCH are:
Christian Principles

John Warren, training director, received the 2015 Core Award for Growth at the all-staff meeting in October. The recipient of the Core Award for Growth is someone who provides opportunities for spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual development.
According to Warren’s nomination: “John has led the Training Department through a period of significant expansion. John has been working diligently to make sure the department is fully prepared to face the new challenges that arise through this process. John’s flexibility and dependability have proven to be valuable assets to the Training Department. He has hosted several new trainings this year, including sexual harassment, suicide prevention, and an impromptu snake awareness training this summer at the Boys Ranch. Through this dedication to educating our staff and making sure that our organization meets compliance standards, this agency overall has been making steady improvements in training compliance.”

“I am humbled and honored to have received the Core Award for Growth,” said Warren. “I really enjoy getting to see folks in trainings have that ‘ah-ha moment’ when a concept or the key to a skill really hits home for them. Hearing stories about how training helps people in their professional life and personal life reminds me of how important the Training Department’s work is. I have a fantastic group of people to work with and I love their passion for helping our agency do the best work possible. I am grateful to be honored this way from an agency that has facilitated my professional growth over the last 10 years.”

Bryan Mize, vice president of quality improvement and Warren’s supervisor had this to share, “I appreciate John’s leadership and enthusiasm as MCH moves forward with the agency-wide training program, an important goal in our strategic plan. John is committed to ensuring employee training needs are met, and he empowers the training staff to use their gifts, skills and knowledge to make significant contributions to our ministry. John is passionate about helping MCH fulfill its mission through his training and other areas of service.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Houston family honored for opening their hearts to foster children

It takes a special family to foster children. It is beautiful and it can also be heartbreaking. Methodist Children’s Home is blessed to have many special families who have opened their homes to children who need a safe, loving place to go as their family deals with difficult situations. Foster care is offered through MCH Family Outreach offices in Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Tyler.

On Nov. 14 in Houston, couples were honored for their dedication and service to foster children during a conference at Woodsedge Community Church in Spring, Texas. Matthew and Tonya Torkelson received an award from Orphan Care Solutions and the Texas Department of Family and Children Services for their outstanding service to children with Methodist Children’s Home.

The Torkelsons were licensed with MCH in September 2011 and received their first foster child in February 2012. Since then, they have fostered 10 children ranging in age from newborn to 14 months old. They have five children of their own: two grown sons ages 31 and 28, a 22-year old daughter in college and two younger girls, ages 9 and 11, they adopted from China.

Tonya said she had felt led to foster for years but her husband did not feel the same way. After attending a Christian music concert, Matt said he wanted to adopt children from China. They adopted two girls but Tonya still felt the calling to foster. She talked to her husband again, and he agreed to pray about it. A few months later they decided it was time to become foster parents and contacted MCH to start the process.

“It has been a pleasure working with the Torkelson family since they became licensed,” said Ramonia Ross, case manager for MCH Family Outreach in Houston. “They are so real and so genuine and the love they have for the children placed in their home is shown through the nurture and care they give to them. One of the things I admire about the Torkelsons is the respect they give to the birth parents, their nonjudgmental attitude, and their willingness to help children have a smooth transition back home, no matter how hard it is to let them go. And most importantly, I admire how Mr. and Mrs. Torkelson are so supportive of one another.” 

The Torkelsons’ children have supported their parents and Tonya said the younger girls love having the babies in their home, “as they are living dolls,” she joked. They are required to attend training annually which Tonya said she enjoys.

“I’m always into learning new things and even being retaught things already learned,” she said. “I love going to the trainings as we get to be with other foster families. It’s so nice to learn and speak with others in the same boat as you. The lessons are taught by the staff so we get all that time with them as well.”

She said Ross is there to support them with whatever they need, whether it is helping them deal with insurance issues, offering them advice or just providing a listening ear.  

“MCH likes to listen to you brag about the kids,” Tonya said. “They make sure we have everything we need to be the best foster parent for these babies. They answer our questions when needed. They are a shoulder to cry on when that is needed as well.”

Through foster care at MCH, family reunification is the goal when possible. Foster parents open their homes and work with the family as they work toward goals so the child can return to a safe, secure home. Tonya said the most challenging part of being a foster parent is when it is time to say goodbye.

“You can try to prepare, but it does not work,” she said. “As the seconds tick closer to the time they leave the more your heart aches. The more the world closes in. The tighter you cling. You just want to hold your little baby forever. But you can’t.

“I have adopted so I have no hang up about family needing to be blood,” Tonya added. “These little babies come into your home and you make them a part of you. They are ours for a short time. So when they go home it’s almost like a death. That’s kind of what it feels like. You will most likely never see them again and you don’t have any control over how they are being raised or how they are being loved. You just pray.” 

But even knowing they may face this heartache, the Torkelsons know that the time and love they give to these children has a tremendous positive impact on the children, the family and their own family. They are led by their faith and put their trust in God.

“We do it because we are called to do it,” she said. “We do it because we love the children. We do it because these babies need a safe place to go to. We do it because it teaches our kids to love others. We do it because we hope that we are helping even just a little. We do it to try to meet the parents and try to form some sort of bond with them. We do it for God.

“People always say to us ‘I could never foster. I would get too attached,’” she continued. “I tell them if you don’t get attached, if it does not break your heart when they leave, then you’re not doing it right. Fostering is about more than you. It’s about more than how you feel. It’s about giving kids a chance at a better life. It’s about giving parents the tools they need to give it to them. It’s about family and family is messy sometimes but so worth it.

“Fostering is about showing Jesus to kids and their families, maybe for the first time in their lives,” she said. “Fostering is about learning not to judge people, loving them where they are now not where you think they should be. Fostering is beautiful and we are so blessed to be a part of it.” 
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, click here and contact the nearest office in Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or Tyler.