By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
MONROE, La. (LBM) – Perry Hancock has much to be thankful for this year.
He witnessed numerous faith decisions made among the 6,800 children and adults the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries has served this year, but in July he also celebrated his 20th year as president and CEO of the ministry.
“I am so thankful to the Lord and to Louisiana Baptists for the opportunity to serve at the Children’s Home,” Hancock told the Baptist Message. “I am blessed every day through our staff, the children and families we serve, and by our churches that support the ministry through the Cooperative Program and in many other ways.”
Hancock became president and CEO of the ministry on July 1, 2003. When he came to the role from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served as dean of graduate studies and associate professor of discipleship, Hancock told trustees of the LBCHFM that he was looking forward to creating a family-style atmosphere among workers and administrators and continuing Louisiana Baptists’ desire for the ministry to put children first.
Twenty years later, that vision has become reality.
Foster care and adoption
Connect1Child foster care and adoption network provides individuals and churches a toolkit to be a “helper to the orphan.”
In November 2022, a new model was launched to help associations better engage churches in foster care and adoption ministry. Since its inception, four associations representing 250 churches have participated in this coordination of efforts to serve the foster care community. This model recognizes that an association provides a more streamlined approach to meet urgent needs.
Compassion for Kids
Compassion for Kids offers ministry designed to meet the basic life needs of 2,700 economically challenged children and their families in Northeast Louisiana. Projects are conducted in partnership with local churches and include providing food, clothing, shoes, school supplies and more.
In March 2024, Compassion for Kids will open the Compassion Center, a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility that will be located on the Monroe campus and could impact 25,000-50,000 children and their families annually in one of the state’s poorest regions.
The regional center will provide weekend food backpacks and school supplies for children, a baby store for infants and toddlers and support for foster care families. Additionally, the center will provide space for a mission church that could provide Bible studies at the facility and resources for existing compassion ministries and pursue the establishment of new church-based compassion works.
Since its inception in 2010, HomePlace has offered homeless women and their children a place to stay for six to 12 months at no cost to the residents, and their stay can be extended. More than 500 women and their children have participated in the program. While there, the women may work toward their high school equivalency and receive life and job training through the Christian Women’s Job Corps. There are to develop care strategies for child victims of human trafficking and residential care for women who are victims of domestic violence.
Ministerial Care Program
The Ministerial Care Residential Program was launched in 2018, and allows Louisiana Baptist terminated ministers and International Mission Board missionaries on stateside assignment (transitioning to a new ministry or recently retired) to receive a free apartment on the LBCHFM’s campus in Monroe for up to one year.
Hancock has celebrated many victories, but he also has seen the landscape change as some children’s homes closed across the nation. He and his staff realized early in his LBCHFM tenure that the entity needed to broaden its vision or else suffer the same fate. In response, Hancock and his team explored the question “Where are the other children and families who need love, care and hope in Christ?” The answer was revealed in an overwhelmed state foster care system.
“We then discovered that foster children all across our state had the same need for care,” he said. “At that time there were over 4,000 children in the system and only 3,000 homes approved for placement. So, we developed a state-wide foster care ministry that we now call Connect1Child. The Children’s Home recruits foster families, provides training, and supports those families throughout the year.
“As we continued to ask, ‘Where are children and families in need?’ we discovered a heartbreaking reality,” he said. “Louisiana has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the nation. Domestic violence creates homelessness for children and their mothers. So we established HomePlace, our family care ministry. Those families can stay with us for 12 months. In that time, mothers receive parent training, life skills and more. Those who have not graduated high school can attend classes at our Women’s Learning Center. We also offer a career track for those who need to enhance their job skills.
“Finally, we found another answer to our question,” he said. “It was easy to see. Where are the children? They are in every neighborhood across our state. They live every day with the challenges of poverty. The poverty rate in our state is 53 percent higher than the national average. These children and their families are all within just a few miles of a Louisiana Baptist church. So, we established CompassionForKids, our community outreach ministry. The Children’s Home partners with LBC churches to provide life essentials for children and families in need. Every project includes a presentation of the Gospel just like our other ministries.
“These are the ways the Lord has opened doors for LBCH in challenging times,” he said. “Those challenges have resulted in greater opportunities.”