By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — In a move aimed at increasing the number of children and families served while reducing costs, Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes has announced plans to streamline its residential care by moving to regional campuses.
The effort is an attempt to “be good stewards of the resources the Lord provides for our ministry,” said TBCH President Greg McCoy.
In recent years TBCH reserve funds have “taken a nose dive,” McCoy said. While TBCH had about $13.5 million in reserve funds in 2004, the entity now has $5 million in “funds available for use,” McCoy said.
“We want to be proactive, realizing that we spend more than we take in,” the TBCH leader said.
About 50 percent of the TBCH budget comes from Cooperative Program gifts from Tennessee Baptists and the annual Mother’s Day offering collected by churches across the state, McCoy said. The remainder of the budget is funded by special gifts, grants, and investment income, he added.
The number of residential facilities will decrease from five to three with campuses at The Ranch in Millington, Brentwood campus, and Chattanooga. The campuses in Bartlett and Oakdale will close, McCoy said. The 75-acre Bartlett campus will be sold while the Oakdale residence will be transitioned to a foster care home, he added.
McCoy stressed that the 97 children currently under the care of TBCH will remain at their current campus or placed at one of the other two sites, unless they are able to return to their families. The planned changes will not be detrimental to the children, McCoy stressed. “The kids are still our mission.”
The goal in West Tennessee is to consolidate the two campuses no sooner than June of 2018 which would allow children to complete the current school year, McCoy said. He added that the ministry will expand by eight students with the total number of beds increasing to 32.
He also noted that the Millington campus will be able to accommodate both younger boys and girls after the transition is complete. Traditionally, the Ranch, which is a working farm, has housed teenage boys.
The Brentwood campus will remain unchanged as to the number of children served, McCoy said. Plans are, however, to sell 15 to 25 of the 50 acres which comprise the Brentwood campus. This would allow for campus improvements while reducing maintenance needs and costs, he observed.
The Chattanooga campus also will remain the same, McCoy continued.
The Oakdale campus will transition into a foster care home, caring for up to five children, the TBCH leader said. The move will save TBCH thousands of dollars each year, he observed, noting that foster families do not receive a salary. Currently, only four children are being served on the Oakdale campus.
The closure of the Memphis and Oakdale campuses will save about $1 million a year, the TBCH president said. TBCH will still need to make up about $500,000 in order to balance the budget, he added.
Though the number of resident children will remain about the same, the foster care program is being ramped up, McCoy said.
He noted the TBCH hopes to place 100 children in foster care with Tennessee Baptist families by 2020. TBCH plans to increase the foster care staff over the next two years and is working with the state of Tennessee to renew their foster care contract by the end of the year.
In addition to transitioning Oakdale into a foster care home, the TBCH owns a cottage in Kingsport that once restored could be used by a foster family with the heart to minister to children, but do not have the home, McCoy said.
TBCH also plans to launch a family support services initiative to develop a proactive ministry to churches and families, McCoy said.
The ministry will provide training and resources to assist parents who are parenting hurting children, he noted.
McCoy said the entity also will step up efforts to raise additional funds. “The steps to cut expenses will reduce the deficit by $1 million. It doesn’t solve all our deficit but it’s a big chunk,” he acknowledged.
The cuts do not come without a cost, McCoy observed. Ultimately about 17 positions will be eliminated, but most houseparents will keep their positions, though some may transition to another campus, he said.
“We are letting good people go. That’s not easy,” McCoy said.
Though it’s not been easy, the TBCH president expressed optimism and excitement for the future. “There are challenges ahead of us, but that’s why it’s called ministry.
“I am excited about the future. We have a strong team who cares about our ministry,” McCoy affirmed.
He expressed gratitude for the support of Tennessee Baptists. “As a Cooperative Program ministry, TBCH continues to be dependent on the faithful prayer, financial, and volunteer support of all Tennessee Baptists.”