By Amy Shores

Director of Pastoral Care, Methodist Family Health

Methodist Family Health’s therapeutic group homes are the foundation on which the Methodist Family Health continuum of care was built. Many may be familiar with our homes around the state as our organization began in 1899 as the Arkansas Methodist Orphanage. Caring for Arkansas’s children and teens who can’t live with their families is something we have been doing for 120 years, and over that span of a century plus, many changes have taken place in the way we provide that care.

Our therapeutic group home program has been renamed by the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as qualified residential treatment programs (QRTPs). No matter what we call the homes, they remain family-style, and our staff uses the Teaching-Family Model of care in all interactions with the kids in residence. The Teaching-Family Model is a well-established, evidence-based, trauma-informed model of care that assists our kids in learning the appropriate alternative behavior to the behaviors which may have caused them to struggle in the past.

While Methodist Family Health has eight homes around the state, we currently only have four staffed and running: Magale Manor in Magnolia, as well as a home in Little Rock, are serving boys, and the home in Helena/Lexa is serving girls. Our home in Searcy should be serving girls again soon as we work to hire staff to care for them. We also have homes in Heber Springs, Springdale and John Magale in Magnolia.

Our home in Fayetteville is currently housing sibling groups as it can be difficult to place a family of brothers and sisters together in the same setting. However, it is vital to their treatment to do so. The children we serve in these programs are all in DCFS custody, and they come from broken homes, failed adoptions, multiple placements, and other traumatic situations.

We work to treat them in a community setting where they attend public schools, play on sports teams or in the band, or become a Scout or 4H member. Our kids also attend church in their community with our Teaching-Parents who are on duty, and we have some amazing United Methodist Churches that partner with our homes to ensure our youth are comfortable and welcome in services.

Arkansas’ congregations also provide for other needs our youths have, particularly during special times of the year like Christmas and back-to-school. I’ve attended choir concerts and seen band solos and award-winning artwork. Recently, I even have had the extreme joy of celebrating the baptism of a couple of our kids!

Regardless of what our civic and church communities provide, it demonstrates to the kids in our care that they are loved, precious and accepted just as they are. As we prepare for the holidays, I ask you to consider working with your church or small group to provide Christmas gifts for the children in our care. If you would like to take a Christmas Wish List for a teen who will be spending Christmas with us, please contact me at AShores@MethodistFamily.org.