MONROE – Fourteen-year-old Jim Howard probably never knew that his silver dollar given to Pine Grove Baptist Church in Bernice in 1898 would lead to the establishment of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home.
By Brian Blackwell
MONROE – Fourteen-year-old Jim Howard probably never
knew that his silver dollar given to Pine Grove Baptist Church in
Bernice in 1898 would lead to the establishment of the Louisiana
Baptist Children’s Home.
While overhearing a conversation between Pastor
William M. Cooksey and other men of the church, Howard learned of their
vision of Louisiana Baptists caring for orphaned children.
“Brother Cooksey, if that is what Louisiana Baptists
are going to do for orphans, I want to give this dollar to help,”
Howard said, as reported in James Carter’s Helping Children for 100
years: A Centennial History of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home.
Howard’s gift was the first money given to establish
the Louisiana Baptist Orphanage, which eventually became the Children’s
Home. A year later, Cooksey presented the motion at the Louisiana
Baptist State Convention in Monroe to create the entity and a cash
collection of $78.85 was given for the orphanage. The Louisiana Baptist
Orphanage was born.
One-hundred-six years later, the Children’s Home continues to serve children and families in need.
The Children’s Home has expanded to offer more than
just residential care. Its other ministries include adoption services,
foster care, marriage and family counseling, crisis pregnancy,
transitional living for some of the residents and family aid.
However, the entity is still committed to its
original mission of building “confidence and self-respect in each
child’s mind and heart and replac(ing) their uncertainty and fear with
a smile and laughter.”
“Everyone here has a sense of ministry,” said
Children’s Home Executive Director Perry Hancock. “This is a
“Some of the best days are on Sundays when we
have children baptized,” continued Hancock. “It’s obvious God
works in special ways in our children’s lives and they know Christ as a
As many as 12 children may live in one of the
Children’s Home’s ten “family-style” cottages at its Monroe campus and
one cottage at Baton Rouge. Children from ages five to 18 live in each
cottage, under the direction of cottage parents.
These cottage parents provide guidance for each
resident in their household. Residents are responsible for chores and
receive help with homework.
“Education is very important for our children,”
Hancock explained. “We’ve had residents join national honor societies,
earn 4.0 GPAs and receive college scholarships. Some of our former
residents have earned Ph.D.s.”
The children attend public schools and participate
in such recreational activities as swimming, tennis and basketball.
Spiritual life includes evening devotionals, church attendance and Wednesday-night chapel service.
“The goals for every child are self-esteem, help,
hope and reaching the potential God has for them,” Hancock said. “We
are trying to help our children grow socially, spritually and
educationally. We provide love and care and a positive Christian
witness for children and families in need.”
Thomas and Reba O’Neal remember their first day as
cottage parents at the Children’s Home 22 years ago like it was
yesterday. That was the day their family increased from zero to four
“I’ve always loved children, but I couldn’t have any
children of my own,” said Reba O’Neal. “I knew God had something
special in store for me, but I didn’t know what it was before that day.”
“When we started, we were green, astonished and in
awe,” added Thomas O’Neal. “But when we helped our kids with their
homework that first night, we could tell we would be alright.”
Twenty-two years and 204 children later, the O’Neals
are two of 24 cottage parents who strive to show the love of
Christ to those who desperately needed it. “Our children are not the
ones who made bad decisions,” Hancock said. “Our children are rejected
or abused and have very difficult family situations.”
Begun earlier this year, the Pathfinders
Transitional Living Program is designed to help young adults who have
been in residential care to transition to a life of independence and
fulfillment. Many residents turn 18 before they graduate from
high school. Louisiana law allows children to remain in residential
care for only six months after their 18th birthday.
With the birth of Pathfinders, those residents will
have a place to live on the Monroe campus while they prepare themselves
for life on their own. Participants in the program may include students
in high school, college, vocational schools or a work program.
Students will participate in such life skills training as
job preparation, driving, service to God, financial management and
“The program is based on the biblical principle that
God has a path or a plan for each person,” Hancock explained. “That
plan is discovered through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
True fulfillment is found in living out God’s plan for our lives.”
Since 1992, Sellers Maternity Home located in Tallulah has assisted single, pregnant girls ages 21 and under.
“This program is for girls to have a place for rest
and reflection while receiving help in their education and
decision-making during their pregnancy,” Hancock explained.
While the Sellers staff does not make the decision
for the mother whether she will surrender her child for adoption, they
will help the girls plan for placing the child into an adoptive
home and telling the mom’s family of the decision.
Residents at Sellers are involved in day-to-day
household activities that help them prepare for life after Sellers,
especially if the girls choose to raise the child themselves.
Just like children in the Monroe and Baton Rouge
residential setting, the girls at Sellers attend First Baptist Church
of Tallulah on a weekly basis. A member of the church also leads
the girls in a weekly Bible study that is non-judgmental and
designed to further their spiritual walk.
For those school-aged residents, the home transports
them to and from junior and high school in Tallulah. Louisiana
Technical College offers courses that prepare them for future
Those without a high school diploma can earn their General Equivalency
Diploma through the college. The home pays fees associated with this
“Family Aid provides assistance to families in ways
that allow the children to stay in their homes,” Hancock said. “It’s
usually in the form of financial assistance.”
Last September, evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita took advantage of the Family Aid program. Six displaced
children from New Orleans received housing, food and medical care until
they were reunited with their families months later. In addition, more
than 1500 individuals received assistance.
The Children’s Home also provided life essentials
and campus efficiency apartments on its campus in Monroe for displaced
families, Hancock added. Those apartments were filled with families
from Louisiana and Mississippi.
Marriage and family counseling
With 17 locations throughout the state, Granberry
Counseling Centers provide families with affordable, professional,
Christian counseling. Their services focus on strengthening
husband-wife relationships, offering parent-training support, working
with parent-child conflicts and counseling Louisiana Baptist ministers.
June 11 has been
designated as Children’s Home Sunday across Louisiana. Church bulletin
inserts are available to churches by calling 318-343-2244 or e-mailing
email@example.com. Individuals interested in receiving a complimentary
subscription to the Children’s Home monthly newsletter should call 318-