By Kara Witherow, Editor
After an “amazing” three-year journey, the Methodist Home for Children and Youth has become the first organization in Georgia to be certified by The Sanctuary Institute.
An agency that serves families and children in crisis, the Methodist Home wants to be a place of restoration and of sanctuary. When they learned of the Sanctuary Model of care, Methodist Home leaders decided to implement the program throughout the agency.
“When we began our Sanctuary journey, we defined Sanctuary as a way of empowering ourselves to take care of others while ensuring the safety, support, and well-being of our employees, children, families, and communities even as we embrace loss and inspire hope,” said Dr. Jeff Lawrence, vice president for programs and services and chief program officer at The Methodist Home. “We have learned that everyone – our staff, the young people we serve, and the families they come from - possesses hurts. Some are visible and some are hidden, but all require love, support, and understanding in order to heal and become whole again. Because of this knowledge, we are becoming an organization working daily to heal internally in order to minister and seek healing for those who enter our doors.”
More than a training curriculum, the certification process through the Sanctuary Institute works on changing the culture of an entire organization, from employees to leaders to clients, said Alison Evans, president and CEO of the Methodist Home. The agency first rolled it out to employees before introducing the concepts to the children and families they serve.
“We didn’t just learn it and practice it with our clients,” she said. “We had to learn and practice it in our organization before we even brought it to the kids.”
The Sanctuary Model helps children, families, and Methodist Home staff more effectively communicate and cope with universal issues and emotions: safety, loss, emotions, and the future.
The process to become certified took three years. A consultant visited every month to conduct an organizational assessment and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the organization.
It was an expensive undertaking too, but The St. Marys United Methodist Church Foundation generously provided a grant for all three years and made it financially possible for the Home to go through the certification process.
“That was amazing,” Evans said. “They jumped wholeheartedly all in with us. I think they saw the value of it as much as we did.”
Other organizations are seeing the change in the Methodist Home and the value in the Sanctuary Model, too. Evans said that two agencies in the Atlanta area have approached her and asked what the Methodist Home is doing differently. They are now considering implementing the Sanctuary Model and also becoming certified by The Sanctuary Institute.
“Because it was such an organizational, cultural change, a transformation for us, I really feel like we treat each other with more respect, more care, and more intentionality than we did previously, and that people understand how clearly their voice can be heard,” Evans said. “The impact is system wide versus just on the client. So I think that when we teach and embrace this holistic approach, it helps us better fulfil our mission in a more compassionate way.”