by Dr. Elizabeth Clarke

Louisiana Christian University’s new Quality Enhancement Plan places experiential learning front and center — a new concept for many degree programs. Not so for social work — social work students have been gaining valuable learning experiences outside the classroom to supplement their textbook training for years.

Bobbye Roberts, associate professor and BSW program director, and Maggie Bridges, assistant professor and field education director for the BSW program, took students in the Human Behavior in the Social Environment course to the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe earlier this month — the first time since COVID-19 prevented the trip last year.

Bridges said she includes this place specifically so students can see that organizations can integrate ministry into social work effectively.

Lexie Darce, a missions and ministry student who is taking the class, said she “left very impressed with the way they ran things.”

From both a social work and ministry perspective, Darce said it was interesting to see how efficiently the home ran while incorporating faith. They are addressing the mental, spiritual, physical and emotional needs of the children there.

“They are pouring into the lives of the kids and making them safe and secure,” Darce said. “They give the kids the most normal life they can.”

The Home is partnered with the Department of Children and Family Services, just like a family who takes in an individual foster child. The difference is the model. There are cottages on the campus and each has a mother and father, a married couple, and they have five children in the home. Each child has his or her own bedroom and bathroom. The parents are certified through the state, and the goal is reunification with their own families, when possible.

The children go to school off campus and participate in many activities of interest to them – music lessons, karate, video games and swimming – things they might not have in a traditional foster home.

The one thing that is certain — they are exposed to the Christian faith in many ways.

“They go to church,” Bridges said. “They expose the kids to the gospel and what they believe in. They are founded in faith.”

Other unique social work services provided include a home for the children to transition to when they age out of the foster care system, Roberts said. The children may stay in the cottages until the age of 22, provided they follow house rules and fulfill their community responsibilities.

This allows them to attend college or work and get on their feet as young adults.

A similar program is available on the campus for single mothers with children who need to get on their feet, improve their educational opportunities or save to provide a better life for their children.

Thomas Chandler, a social work major, said what really stood out to him was the sheer amount of support offered the children — tutoring, counseling, medical and dental insurance, funds for college, a gym, and pool. The amenities there, compared to a facility where his family members worked in another state, were starkly different.

Roberts said that one reason is because of the additional support provided by private individuals who believe in the work that the Baptist Children’s Home provides. Many people give directly, including support from the Roy O. Martin family and Gayle Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints.

Bridges said the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home has never wavered — over hundreds of years — on teaching and exposing the children there to the gospel. And many people support its work and mission because of that.

“I like to provide a unique experience for students,” Bridges said. “We talk a lot about state care in social work. I want students who will be tomorrow’s practitioners to see a Christ-centered perspective, to show that you can meet a need while using a Christian perspective and do it well.”

LCU President and CEO Rick Brewer said other programs are working to include components of the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI) framework that will be a distinctive approach at LCU.

“We are working toward a model that will require all students to complete at least two of four components — serving learning, internships, research with a professor, or study abroad.”

One of LCU’s MSW students currently has an internship at the Children’s Home, as well.

“We are grateful to partner with LCU to provide an internship for the social work program,” said Dr. Perry Hancock, LBCH and Family Ministries President and CEO. “Our current intern, Mallory Duffy, has been a great asset to our ministry and a joy to work with. She has worked hands-on with children and assisted social work staff with various aspects of our daily ministry. We look forward to hosting LCU interns in the future.”

For more information about Louisiana Christian University’s accredited BSW program or newly accredited MSW program, visit the website.

Students in LCU’s Human Behavior in the Social Environment course visited the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home with their instructors in November, far left front, Bobbye Roberts, and far right front, Maggie Bridges.

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