Serving Mississippi’s children and families for more than a century
“If not us, then who, if not now, then when?”
In the early 1900s, the options for children without parents were limited. There were a number of large institutional homes throughout the state that did the best they could to provide food and shelter for orphaned children or children whose family’s simply couldn’t take care of them. There were even “orphan trains” that transported homeless children west to find families in mid-west farming communities.
The Mississippi Children’s Home Society, founded in Meridian in 1912, believed there had to be a better way. They believed that the best place for a child was in a permanent home with an adoptive family, and that a receiving home should be a temporary setting until a “forever” family could be found. In 1913, The Mississippi Children’s Home Society moved its Headquarters to Jackson, and just three years later, The Kate McWillie Powers Receiving Home was constructed across from the Millsaps College campus, with the mission of finding families for all of the children in its charge.
Since its establishment, The Mississippi Children’s Home has found permanent homes for over 7000 children. But that was just the beginning of the story…
Throughout most of the 20th century The Mississippi Children’s Home functioned in a social service role, caring for children and unmarried expectant mothers, with the peak of adoption activity falling during the 1960s and 1970s. However by the late 1980s and 1990s its focus began to change from social service to behavioral health, as the needs of Mississippi’s children and families changed and the organization evolved to meet them.
Well-Being spoke with John Damon, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of MCHS about the organization’s ever changing role.
“In 1985 Mississippi Children’s Home opened the state’s first therapeutic group home, and in 1993, the state’s first private, non-profit psychiatric residential treatment facility,” explains Damon. “By 2000 we had responded to the changing needs of the state by establishing a full spectrum of both residential, home and community-based services. In 2003, the organization’s name was changed to Mississippi Children’s Home Services (MCHS) to better reflect its mission of providing a continuum of compassionate care, with the goal of family preservation and family unification.” In 2009, as the incidence of autism seemed to explode, autism services were added, with facilities in Jackson, Gulfport and Hattiesburg.
Today, with twenty-two offices serving children and families in all 82 counties, MCHS is the largest, most comprehensive provider of children’s behavioral heath in Mississippi. While it still provides over 100 residential treatment beds, for every child served in a residential setting, twelve children are served in home and community-based settings.
“With the changing needs of Mississippi children and families, we have had to ask ourselves, ‘how do we make sure we are good stewards of our resources and meet the most pressing problems of children?’” notes Damon. “We listen to community leaders and state partners to help us forge a good strategic plan. The continuing dialogue has resulted in a wide variety of treatment settings and levels of care throughout the state, each which serve as a means to one end …to keep children and families together in a permanent, loving home. We believe every child can be a success story. This requires a lot of hard work that begins by listening to the voices of our children and families. Then, we build on the strengths unique to each family and develop a plan together that ensures their success. We want to remove the stumbling blocks our families have faced so children and families can be reunited and function together in a healthy and supportive environment.”
“Our family preservation and family reunification programs for children of abuse or neglect, have been tremendously beneficial,” Damon continues. “Working with families to keep kids at home and help parents find ways to deal with the stresses of daily life, we have had a 94 percent success rate of preventing children from entering into state custody, thriving in their own homes, and remaining free of incidents of abuse or neglect for two years.”
According to Dr. Damon, the vast majority (89%) of MCHS funding comes from state and federal resources. However, the ongoing challenge is to secure startup capital to respond to changing needs, develop new services and recruit and retain professional staff members. MCHS operates very efficiently, with over 90% of all funds being directly applied to operations.
“We have been faithful stewards of the resources with which we have been entrusted and have used this support to transform lives. We ask Mississippians to consider making an investment in Mississippi’s future by supporting MCHS programs and services with their contributions. Unfortunately, the needs of our children are not subsiding. The state’s children and families need us more than ever, and we need partners who can help us continue our work to meet their emerging needs as we forge our way into our second century of caring,” Damon concludes.
DID YOU KNOW?
Date Founded: Mississippi Children’s Home Services (then Mississippi Children’s Home Society) was established in Meridian in 1912 and moved its headquarters to Jackson in 1913.
Society’s first home for children: The Kate McWillie Powers Receiving Home was constructed in 1916.
Mission: To improve the lives of children and families by providing a continuum of compassionate, measurable and effective behavioral health and social services.
Date the Society was renamed Mississippi Children’s Home Services: 2003
Number of children adopted through Mississippi Children’s Home Services since its founding: More than 7000
Number of individuals now assisted each year through MCHS programs: 20,000 Mississippi children and families each year
Programs and Services Provided: Autism Services • Early Intervention Autism Clinic (Madison) • Outpatient Clinic (Jackson) • School Based Consultation (Statewide) • CARES School Day Programs (Gulfport, Hattiesburg and Jackson) Crisis Services • Child Advocacy Center (Gulfport) • South Mississippi Children’s Shelter (Hattiesburg) • Warren County Children’s Shelter (Vicksburg) Educational Services • CARES School Day Programs (Gulfport, Hattiesburg and Jackson) Family Permanency Services • Adoption and Maternity Services (Statewide) • Comprehensive Family Support Services (CFSSP) (Statewide) • Therapeutic Foster Care Intensive In-Home Services • Mississippi Youth Programs Around the Clock (MYPAC) (Statewide) Outpatient Services • Behavioral Health Clinics (Jackson, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Natchez, Tupelo) • Day Treatment Services (Natchez and Jackson) Residential Services • CARES Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (Jackson and Saucier)
Mississippi Children’s Home Services, P.O. Box 1078, Jackson, MS 39215 • Local: 601-352-7784 • Toll Free: (800) 388-6247