Agency FAQs

Q. What is the ministry focus of United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH)?

We provide homes, hope, and healing to families, children, and youth impacted by abuse and neglect. We provide homes for children, teens and college-age youth through our foster care program and residential group homes. Our Family Preservation program provides targeted, specific interventions for families who are at risk for having their children removed as well as with families working toward reunifying with their children. We also provide a home for homeless women and children, a population that merges with our service footprint of serving vulnerable children and families.

Q. What communities are eligible for services from UMCH?

UMCH has programs and staff that serve and span the state of Alabama. Our Northwest Florida ministry (Embrace Florida Kids) also has programs in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties.

Q. How do children and families receive services from UMCH?

We receive referrals from the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). We are licensed and contracted through DHR to provide residential care, foster care and support programs.

Q. How is UMCH Funded?

Income and expense vary greatly from program to program, and some are self-funded. Collectively, our Alabama Department of Human Resources contract dollars pay a small fraction of what it costs to run our homes and programs, and funding is always shifting and fluctuating. The remainder of our revenue comes from donors and churches.

Q. How can I contribute to UMCH Programs and Kids?

We have a variety of methods to accept your tax-exempt donation: Our secure payment processing link has instructions for your credit card, EFT or check; through your financial institution, IRA contribution, and via Venmo.

Q. How is the money designated?

All funds are considered unrestricted and for “Greatest Ministry Needs” unless the donor provides other instructions to restrict the gift for a specific location or program.

Q. What kind of Impact do you have in Alabama and Northwest Florida?

Last year (2019) (Including UMCH and Embrace Florida Kids)

  • 1,593 babies, children, teens, young adults and families ministered to
  • 22,628 days of foster care provided for 176 children and youth while training and supporting 83 foster families
  • 17,161 days of care delivered to 82 youth in residential homes, providing food, clothing, counseling, nurturing and guidance
  • 273 families kept together through intensive in-home treatment, positively impact the lives of 1,101 individuals
  • 26 forever homes found for children while also training and conducting home studies for families considering adoption

Q. How is UMCH staffed?

Program Managers: Each program location has a Program Manager with a background in social service and experience working with youth. The Program Manager is responsible for making sure of the needs of the youth are met, advocating for youth in their care, providing counseling and guidance, ensuring staff receive appropriate training, and ensuring that homes are safe and that children are receiving the care they need.

Youth Care Workers work in the home for several days at a time. Our Youth Care Workers teach our youth skills needed to become independent adults. They also transport youth to school, church, appointments, work, and other activities. Youth Care Workers cook healthy meals, lead devotions, help with homework, bandage cuts and bruises, administer medication, attend sporting events to cheer our youth on, assist youth in discovering their abilities, encourage youth, assist in problem solving, show love, and help them deal with the challenges of being a kid in the foster care.

Foster Care staff are responsible for training foster parents, providing support and feedback, arranging for foster parents to have much needed breaks (respite), ensuring foster families abide by licensing standards, matching youth to foster families, advocating for the needs of the youth, and recruiting new foster homes.

Q. How can I inquire about employment with UMCH?

Employment inquiries may be directed to our Human Resources staff located at our corporate office. E-mail: hrdept@umch.net or call 1.800.239.3575.

Q. Do you need volunteers? How can I help?

Volunteers are limited at our program locations due to sensitivity, privacy, and safety issues. We do have many community advocates and supporters in our schools and churches who raise funds, collect necessary donations (for our foster families and our teens) provide tutoring, fellowship and social opportunities, and more. Monetary donations and estate gifts ensure we are able to continue our programs long-term. We are always in need of gift cards for entertainment as well.

Additionally, we love to get an invitation to speak at your civic clubs, church groups, etc. Every invitation to speak is an opportunity to gain support from a new segment of the community. Contact us at 1.800.239.3575 or info@umch.net to learn more about getting involved!

Q. How long has UMCH been serving kids in foster care?

The United Methodist Children’s Home was established in 1890 to provide services to abused, neglected, and abandoned children. What started out as an orphanage in Summerfield, AL, has grown to include a wide spectrum of foster care and family preservation programs in both Alabama and Northwest Florida.

  • 1890: The brainchild of Rev. Sam P. West of the North Alabama Conference, the Alabama Methodist Orphanage was founded on faith and with $129 in Summerfield, Alabama. Charles Eppsworth Moore was the first resident. By 1905, 443 children had been served; 351 of them were adopted into homes.
  • 1911: After much prayer and debate, the ministry was moved to Selma and housed in the former Selma Military Institute on Broad Street. A nearby farm helped keep food expenses down and the children learned responsibility, discipline and essential life skills as they cared for the animals and tended and harvested the garden.
  • 1939: A name change reflected the evolving needs of the children and the agency’s commitment to meeting them. The Alabama Methodist Orphanage became the Methodist Children’s Home. By 1965, only one true orphan lived at the home.
  • Late 1940’s: The chapel was completed at the Selma Campus, which grew over the years to include a swimming pool, 10 cottages, tennis and basketball courts, residences for the executive director and chaplain, and, at one point, a 24-bed hospital. Residents attended church services, confirmation classes and participated in UMYF groups, Bible studies and retreats.
  • 1960s: More and more of the children coming into UMCH’s care have been victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect. As a result, they often came with emotional and behavioral issues. Licensed social workers joined the staff and worked in partnership with state agencies in Alabama and Florida.
  • 1968: The Methodist Church united with Evangelical United Brethren to become the United Methodist Church. The agency’s name was changed to United Methodist Children’s Home.
  • 1971: In an effort to help children maintain relationships with their biological families and to foster the hope of eventual reunification when possible, child welfare advocates began to favor small, home-like settings in nearby communities. As a result, UMCH began opening licensed residential group homes. The first, a home for girls in Scottsboro, Alabama, was sold to UMCH for $1 by Scottsboro First United Methodist Church.
  • Through the 70’s: Other group homes followed. UMCH currently operates group homes in Alabama and Florida, and each serves six to eight youth who can no longer live with their parents. The boys and girls, ages 11-18, often have mild to moderate behavioral and emotional problems. Family members remain involved and have supervised visits whenever possible. The Babies First program in Mobile serves teen mothers and their children.
  • 1980’s: Family preservation became one of the major focuses of child welfare providers. Advocates urged states to provide structured services so children could remain in their homes with safeguards in place to protect them.
  • 1995: UMCH’s first family preservation program, Family Options Program, began in Dothan. The agency has served a seven-county area ever since. Now called FOCUS (Family Outcome Centered Unification Services), it provides intensive, in-home treatment so families can stay together. In its 20 years, the program has had a 90 percent success rate.
  • Early 2000’s: Discussions about closing the Selma campus begin. Renovations necessary to meet the standards for residential care would cost more than the building and grounds are worth. Fewer children are placed there because of the state’s preference for foster care and group homes.
  • 2010: The Board makes the difficult decision to sell the Selma campus 100 years after the Alabama Methodist Orphanage leaders made the decision to move from Summerfield to Selma. Painful decisions made a century apart had the same goal: to serve children and families with the highest quality of care.
  • 2013: The Knabe Higher Education Homes allow students with a history of alternative care to attend college while living in a supportive, stable and loving environment. The Tuscaloosa scholarship home serves young men attending Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the University of Alabama, and the Florence scholarship home serves young ladies studying at the University of North Alabama.
  • 2015: The United Methodist Children’s Home celebrated 125 years of ministry and continues to serve children, teens, young adults and families in the North Alabama and Alabama-West Florida conferences.
  • 2020: UMCH rebrands its Northwest Florida ministry to “Embrace Florida Kids.” Among other reasons, the new name gave donors in this region assurance that their dollars could be put to work caring for kids in their own communities.

Embrace Florida Children, Youth & Teen FAQs

Q. How many children does UMCH serve?

In 2019, UMCH provided 22,628 days of foster care for 176 children and youth while training and supporting 83 foster families in Alabama and Northwest Florida. Adjacent to this care, the ministry provided 17,161 days of care delivered to 82 youth in residential homes, providing food, clothing, counseling, nurturing and guidance.

Q. How many kids and family members are in each program?

Depending on the specific program, 6-10 residents can stay at one of our residential/ group home locations at any given time with 24/7, 365 day-care. In 2019, our Foster Care Program served approximately 85 children, and our Family Preservation Program worked with approximately 275 families in Alabama and Northwest Florida.

Q. How do the kids leave our programs?

Kids leave our programs in a variety of different ways. Some youth are only with us for a brief period of time while arrangements are made for them to move on to placements with friends or family members. Other youth are reunited with their parents after their parents are able to demonstrate their ability to safely parent again. Some of our kids in foster care are adopted by their foster parents. Many youth remain with us through high school and leave to live independent lives. It is our goal, no matter how long a youth is with us, to do as much as possible to prepare youth for independence.

Q. Do you stay in touch with kids after they leave the program?

Yes! Our kids call to let us know how they are doing, what is new in their lives, and when major life events occur. We are sometimes able to help out financially when our youth experience an unexpected crisis or life event. We also track children for one year post discharge to identify any follow up needs or issues.

Q. Does family reunification happen often?

Family reunification happens frequently within the child welfare system. Sometimes reunification occurs with extended family members rather than with parents. We are supportive of reunification when it occurs. Our programs work with the child/youth and the biological family to help the child/youth during this transition.

Q. Do kids visit with their family members?

Family visitation is conditional. Everyone involved must abide by all court orders. The court mandates what type of visitation is appropriate for each family. Some kids are able to visit their family members with few limitations, other kids may only see their family when a court-approved supervisor is in place to oversee the visit, and some youth are not allowed contact with their parents for safety reasons. As much as possible, siblings are placed together. When they cannot be placed together, sibling visitation is encouraged as frequently as possible.

Q. Do the kids participate in after-school programs?

Our kids are encouraged to participate in after-school programs such as athletic teams, band, clubs, and other interests. UMCH desires to help our youth find their passion and to experience new things. However, the cost of these activities are not funded by local or state agencies, and is only possible through the generous donations from the community.

Q. Are the kids involved in a church?

Unless they request to attend a church of another denomination, kids in group care worship in a United Methodist church near their group home. They are encouraged to participate in age appropriate activities such as small groups, UMYF meetings, recreational activities and service projects. Kids in family foster homes usually attend church with their foster parents.

Q. How do you provide spiritual care?

Spiritual care is provided in a variety of ways. As UMCH staff interact with kids they have many opportunities to discuss spiritual matters with them. Each Sunday, UMCH staff at our Settlement Boys Home, Babies First Home and Milton Girls Home (FL) give those we care for the opportunity to attend a local Methodist Church in the community that welcomes them into the church body and its various activities. An annual mission trip also provides our staff and kids with powerful spiritual formation experiences.

Potential Foster Parents FAQs

Q. What is foster parenting?

Licensed foster parents provide temporary care for children who have been removed from their biological family due to abuse, neglect or abandonment until those children can safely return home or achieve another permanent outcome.

Q. How do I become an UMCH foster parent in Alabama?

Our North Alabama Foster Care office is located in Tuscaloosa and our South Alabama Foster Care offices are located in Andalusia and Dothan. Staff from each office help families complete necessary requirements to become licensed to care for foster children. The first step required is a seven to ten-week foster parent training class. The licensing process includes an application process, intensive background checks and home safety assessment. A licensing worker makes a minimum of two visits to your home to complete family interviews, health inspections, and a fire inspection. All foster homes must comply with the minimum standards for foster homes as mandated by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). Interested applicants should send an email to info@umch.net.

Q. How long does it take to become a licensed foster care home?

A variety of factors and circumstances determine the length of the licensing process. It can take three months or longer depending on completion of background checks, medical clearances and required certifications, the availability of training, and location of the foster home.

Q. What is respite care and how do I get licensed?

A respite care home allows foster parents a break from caregiving Responsibilities by providing short term care of children who are already placed in a foster home. Duration of respite care varies from one day to two weeks. A respite care home must be a fully licensed foster home.

Q. What are disqualifying factors?

Some disqualifying factors include violent crimes, drug related crimes, felony thefts, a DUI in recent history, currently on probation, verified findings of child abuse, or your own children adjudicated dependent by the court.

Q. What is the role of a foster parent?

  • Help children cope with separation & loss
  • Build healthy relationships
  • Use age appropriate discipline
  • Build self-esteem and give positive guidance
  • Support cultural identity and religious practices
  • Transport children to medical, dental & counseling appointments
  • Enroll children in school/daycare
  • Attend meetings pertaining to the children
  • Work with service providers (caseworkers, therapists, medical personnel)

Additionally, Foster parents have varying participation in the following:

  • Transporting children to and from visitations
  • Notifying parents of medical appointments & school activities
  • Sending pictures, school work, art work to parents
  • Notifying parents of special events (ball games, plays, etc.)
  • Supervising visitations

Q. What about daycare/after school care?

A referral is made to Early Learning Coalition when the child is placed in your home. It is Dependent on funding through Early Learning Coalition; however, Childcare is currently available for children through age 8.

Q. What about board payment or a stipend for foster care parents?

The payment of care foster families receive varies based on the needs of the child being cared for. However this payment is a reimbursement, not a salary. It is nontaxable, not considered a source of income for income tax purposes.

Q. What about clothing expenses?

UMCH/DHR may provide additional assistance for clothing if a child comes with just the clothes they are wearing.

Q. Are the children eligible for medical and other assistance while in my care?

Medical/dental and counseling is covered by Medicaid. The children are eligible for WIC assistance.

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