The Presbyterian Home for Children: Celebrating 150 Years
Published: July 31, 2018
By: Carol Muse Evans
It’s a staggering statistic. The average age of a homeless person in Alabama is age 6. This is the approximate age of a first grader.
One organization in Alabama is seeking to make a huge difference in the lives of homeless children and mothers in Alabama – and one that has been for the last 150 years – is the Presbyterian Home for Children (PHFC) in Talladega, says its president and CEO Doug Marshall. In fact, this organization serves children and families who seek healing and hope for their troubled lives.
The PHFC is helping to answer a critical need for Alabama’s homeless children and families,” according to Jacque Cordle-Ramey, director of development. “So many children are separated from their moms due to simple poverty and the mom’s inability to find and hold employment due to a lack of education or job skills.
“At the Home we are able to not only work in partnership with mothers and help them obtain the education or training that they need to become successful and independent from assistance, we also work in tandem with her family providing parenting classes and counseling encouraging their family unit to regain its strength and potential, Cordle-Ramey explains.
The PHFC is a ministry of Alabama’s three presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (USA): North Alabama, the Sheppards and the Lapsleys, and South Alabama; and led by a 25-member board of trustees. Visitors will feel the love from among staff members, many who have worked their entire work lives here and remain committed to the organization.
Talk to anyone who has lived here on this beautiful, rolling, 80-acre campus, and you’ll find a basket of emotions associated with the home. While all seem thankful and have grown from being here, memories can be different, because most people come to this home when they have hit rock bottom – whether it’s the child or the mother, or both. It is usually bad things that have brought them here, Marshall says. Whether the former resident is in her 30s, like Cindy, or in her 80s, like Mary, some memories are raw, but this organization may well have saved them during a difficult time. Both Mary and Cindy say it made them better people. “We help place them on a path of hope and surround them with love,” Marshall adds.
“Many of the children and families that we serve have been going from crisis to crisis and just trying to survive,” Cordle-Ramey adds. “We are able to bring them back together to a place of calmness so that they can reestablish what it’s like to be a normal, healthy family.”
There are many outstanding programs here, but the newest Family Bridges intensive in-home services might be one of the few, if not the only service in the state to offer assistance to families in need of in-home services that focus on successful permanency within a safe, stable family setting in a timely manner for children, according to Felicia Ayers Storey, LGSW, program director. This program is performed in partnership with the referring county DHR worker. Amazingly, this program is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Counties currently served are Talladega and east central Alabama such as Clay, Randolph, St. Clair and Cleburne Counties, Storey adds. One of the main goals is to keep families together or to reunify them later.
The transition to the Adult Living Program provides room, board and support services for young women, ages 19-24 while educating, equipping and empowering them to move toward full independence, according to Sharon J. Moore, program director. The room and board is cozy, homey, and inviting. This program is wonderful for young women who have aged out of the foster care system and need some help, encouragement and guidance toward adult living. The home even provides assistance with student aid, scholarships, jobs, volunteer assignments and life skills.
The Secure Dwellings program provides transitional housing on the Presbyterian Home campus and ministers to homeless children and their female caregivers. Giving them a home, they can rest, grow, go to school and the moms/caregivers can develop education, vocational and social skills with the goal of being self-sufficient, Storey says. Again, the dwellings are much more homey than institutional, a credit to the organization. Residents here are helped with things like monthly budgeting and money management, finding daycare for children, job applications, and basic life skills. “This program usually stays full,” Marshall adds, but the organization is building additional new units to house more families. “The goal is to keep mom and child together,” Marshall adds. “This is a faith-based safe haven, where we provide programs which nurture, educate and equip them to become the full functioning persons whom God created them to be.”
The Moderate Care Residential Therapeutic Program offers girls a home in a residential cottage with full-time house parents. This program is for girls who have experienced some of the more severe trauma or abuse, with the hopes of making them whole again and healing in such a way that they can move forward with their lives, says Sharon C. Britt, LGSW, program director. Restorative services here are key, and each girl has a program tailored to her specific needs. “The Home pulls more than 100 years of collective experience from its leadership team in serving and leading children,” Marshall adds.
And while at Presbyterian Home for Children, all the children are able to attend Ascension Leadership Academy, formerly known as Hope Academy (which opened in 1997), the home’s SACS accredited on-campus school, and many children whose parents seek a private, Christian education, mixed with the children who are housed at the home offer kids some normalcy, according to Linda Harris, director of education. With its low student/teacher ratio, even children who are behind in school can advance and reach their fullest academic potential, according to Marshall. While children from any municipality are welcome, many of the area children served come from Anniston, Oxford, Munford, Sylacauga, Pell City and Talladega.
In addition to all of these services, The Presbyterian Home for Children offers other services such as independent living skills, crisis intervention, individual, group and family counseling. Family support, social skills and even local transportation including health care appointments and employment.
This is an amazing amount of work for a ministry. Marshall says the home is primarily funded by individual and church donations during the year and the Home is now focusing more on sustained giving, as well as events like the Bike Ride in the fall, the Children’s Home Challenge.
“The difference is that we are able to make for the children’s isn’t just for today or next week, these are changes that will transform not only their entire life but the lives of their children and grandchildren,” Cordle-Ramey says.
The PHFC home must have donations to continue to serve these children, young adults and families. For more information, or to donate, you can visit www.phfc.org, contact the Home at 256-362-2114, or use the envelope inside this month’s issue of Birmingham Parent to contribute.
Carol Muse Evans is publisher/editor of Birmingham Parent.
About the Orphan’s Home of the Synod of Alabama:
The Orphans’ Home of the Synod of Alabama (which is today the Presbyterian Home for Children) was born during the Southern Confederacy in 1868 as a home for children orphaned by the Civil War, particularly for children of Confederate soldiers. While it held several locations in Mobile and Birmingham, it eventually was moved to Talladega and dedicated in 1892. Some of the same buildings dedicated then still stand on the campus today.
About the PHFC Thrift Store
In 2015 the Presbyterian Home for Children opened the PHFC Thrift Store on its campus in Talladega. Open Tuesday- Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. – noon, the goal is to provide part-time employment and job training for women in the Secure Dwellings Program. Donations for the store are welcomed. There is also pick up in the greater Birmingham area.