Help that gives hope

Methodist Children’s Home prepares young men for the future while helping them deal with their past

For some of Louisiana’s children, life at home includes abuse and neglect. In 2016, that was the case for 11,289 of the state’s children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2015, almost 11,000 boys and girls, age 17 and under, had a brush with the juvenile justice system, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

For these children, the Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana offers the kind of help that gives hope and touches the lives of future generations.

“We keep them safe, we earn their trust, and we teach them a better way,” said Director Steven Franks, Ph.D.

Twenty-two boys between the ages of 12 and 17 call this Sulphur treatment center home.

The Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana is the first facility of its kind to be licensed in the state to help children with the greatest behavioral and emotional needs. Louisiana has only four such facilities, and three are Methodist Children’s Homes.

“The things we’re trying to teach them are life skills, coping skills, the ways to deal with life so they don’t have to be cared for by another individual, to live in the outside world, move forward with their education and succeed in getting jobs,” said Patrick Blanchard, director of development.

“They’re learning the kinds of things here about becoming independent adults that many young people learn at home from parents,” added Mark Morris, assistant director. “The simple things such as money management, keeping their clothes clean and learning to cook.”

Blanchard said The Methodist Children’s Home recently partnered with Louisiana Cat. The company will test certain Methodist Children’s Home residents to determine which have a knack for technical skills. Those who show aptitude will be trained for jobs.

“With all the industrial growth in this area, I’m hoping we will see more opportunities for these young men,” Blanchard said.

Residents pursue their high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma through the Calcasieu Parish School system homebound department on the Methodist home’s campus.

In addition to preparing the young men for the future, the intense therapy offered at the Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana helps them deal with their past.

Many of the residents come from the Department of Children and Family Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice.

“The Sulphur treatment center specializes in delivering individualized treatment to children with sexualized behavior,” said Catherine Heitman, DCFS. “In most situations, the behavior is secondary to the child’s own sexual victimization, or to undisclosed sexual abuse.”

Residential treatment may be necessary for overcoming trauma from sexual abuse and to overcome any additional struggles, including self-injury, suicidal thoughts, disassociation, impaired ability to engage in healthy, trusting or meaningful relationships with others, and substance use disorders or eating disorders, according to Hietman.

“LMCH provides a caring and therapeutic space where kids can separate from the stressors and triggers they face on a daily basis and move toward recovery,” she said.

None of the residents are violent sex offenders. However, each resident is carefully supervised, and the environment is secure. Once a young man is in the care of the home, he receives individual, family and other therapy, 24-hour nursing care and weekly psychiatric care.

“Young people are much different from adults,” Franks said. “Developmentally, they’re not finished.”

“We learn from our environment,” Morris said. “Behaviors can reflect a need for love, for acceptance or for nurturing. We help teach these kids that you can get these needs met in a positive way.”

Residents at LMCH also receive pastoral care, mentoring and visits from local churches.

Funding has been challenging at times. The home accepted its first residents in 2011 on property and a facility made possible by donations from a Sulphur family.

When asked what the residents at the Methodist Children’s Home need most, Franks answered:

“Yes, you can donate,” he said. “But we also like it when you show up. That’s one thing kids benefit from, knowing there are people out there who care for them and consistently show up. They volunteer without any financial return and come back again and again.”

Franks said he’s grateful for the churches that are helping the residents and especially the men’s groups.

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To find out how to donate or volunteer for Methodist Children’s Home of Southwest Louisiana, call 337-527-5056.

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