Many come to Methodist Children’s Home in search of safety and stability. By having a secure environment, children and families are able to focus on healing and rebuilding their futures.
Safety is an agency-wide effort, and MCH leadership and staff work together to maintain high standards and stay up-to-date on the latest methods of risk prevention. MCH recognizes the need to make safety and security a priority in all programs at the Waco campus and Boys Ranch which provide a home for youth, and the 13 MCH Family Outreach offices.
Leading the charge to examine safety and develop strategies for improvements is the Risk Management Committee. The emphasis was started more than 25 years ago by Judy Broadway, vice president for human resources. The current group consists of representatives from Human Resources, Technology, Plant Services, Waco campus and Boys Ranch administrators, Training, and Security who meet quarterly to discuss safety concerns and issues. All staff are encouraged to report any safety concerns to a Risk Management Committee member so it can be addressed in a timely manner. During the meetings the committee reviews any incidents, safety risks, audits or inspections, and emergency preparedness.
“The Risk Management Committee does an amazing job of evaluating potential risks and defining safety issues with regards to our staff, visitors and children,” Broadway said. “We depend on this committee to remain sharp, well informed and committed to these responsibilities, and we take pride in the contributions, dedication and dependability of all our members.”
Recently the Training department and Risk Management Committee implemented an extended safety training that is required annually for all MCH staff. During the training, staff learn about emergency plans and procedures, conducting drills, and how to use fire extinguishers. Also, a new video provides unknown intruder training for all employees so they can feel better prepared to handle a situation if needed. MCH Family Outreach staff receive training on home visit safety and boundaries with clients. Several outreach locations have also hosted unknown intruder trainings.
Members of the Risk Management Committee continue to work closely with representatives from the Waco Police Department as well as other local experts and consultants in order to find the best options to prepare staff and create a safer environment for all.
MCH Director of Security Gary Freeman is a retired Waco police officer and part of the Risk Management Committee. His team of security officers are all current Waco police officers who work for MCH on a part-time basis. Police officers patrol the campus, check buildings and attend special events. They also may be called upon to help with situations or conflicts involving youth should they arise.
Freeman said his officers understand they may need to handle these scenarios differently than they would on the streets by giving youth more grace. He hopes for youth, who may have had a bad experience in the past, to see them as their ally.
“They equate us with authority and I want them to know that they don’t have to be afraid to come up and talk to us,” Freeman said.
Freeman conducted a safety survey for the MCH charter school at the end of the 2017-18 school year with the help of other police officers and members of the Risk Management Committee. He was able to provide several recommendations that would increase the security of the building. He also worked with campus administrators and school staff in performing a lock down drill in May.
Jeff Creel, program administrator for school and transition services, said the students handled the drill well and teachers discussed school safety and drill procedures with students throughout the school year.
“With all the things that have been happening in schools across the country, this is a reality that we are concerned about,” Creel said. “We have an interest as a community in being more prepared. As a school we are becoming more proactive in talking about ways to make our community safer. This is an area to emphasize and is an important part of our safety. It should be as routine as anything else.”
In addition to the lockdown drill, the school also regularly performs fire and weather-related emergency drills. The school utilizes surveillance cameras as well as restricted access to the building throughout the day.
MCH staff on both residential campuses, MCH Family Outreach offices and foster care homes are also required to undergo regular drills. Plant staff are in charge of performing safety inspections at campus facilities for fire extinguishers, lighting, playground equipment, elevators, vehicles, and other maintenance needs. Staff are encouraged to report any areas needing attention.
Freeman also assisted with a safety audit for MCH Family Outreach offices. The office spaces at each location are different, but MCH incorporated security and safety measures into each design to better protect staff. Locations are, or will soon be, equipped with secure lobbies and shatterproof glass at entrances. All office spaces include at least two exits.
MCH leadership also set up a confidential reporting hotline where employees can call through a third-party provider about any concerns so that all employees feel safe in the workplace. When introducing the service, leadership stated: “It takes all of us working together to build and maintain a strong and positive organizational structure.” The hotline is meant for the overall protection of the agency and its employees by giving them an option to voice concerns anonymously.
MCH residential and Family Outreach programs analyze service delivery and client outcomes regularly as part of a continuous quality improvement (CQI) process “to promote organizational and program service excellence through data analysis, evaluation and performance and quality improvement planning and implementation.” The goal of this process is to create an environment where staff are constantly trying to find new and innovative ways to better serve children, youth and families.
The MCH annual report for 2016-17 reported that 98 percent of youth are safe in care. In addition, 90 percent of youth are safe by avoiding high risk behavior. In foster care, 100 percent of families report being treated with dignity and respect by staff, and 88 percent were satisfied that MCH met all their child’s needs while in foster care.
Children, youth and families served at MCH can feel confident they are receiving support from an agency who makes their needs for a secure environment a priority. MCH is committed to continuously examining risk and understands that safety is an ongoing process. •