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Drop in donations require cuts at Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes

PALMETTO, Ga. (BP)–In response to a significant decline in contributions and income from endowment over the past 12 months, Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries, Inc., has eliminated 32 staff positions and closed or reduced several programs that serve children and families in need.

The announcement, made in late October, marks the second round of budget reductions enacted this year, but the first major reduction in staff and programs for Georgia’s largest provider of residential services to abused children.

Kenneth M. Dobbs, the agency’s president/CEO, told trustees during their Sept. 10 meeting, “This is a regrettable but necessary step at this time. What makes this more difficult is that those whose positions have been eliminated are fine individuals and are like family to us.”

Dobbs had earlier in the year implemented budget reductions in an effort to avoid any reductions in staff or services. However, the continued decline in contributions, combined with a stagnant economy and substantial insurance cost increases, made further reductions unavoidable.

The agency had planned on approximately 18 percent of its annual revenue to be generated by permanent endowment. However, the previous two years have seen the market value of endowment decline significantly, making current short-term income projections minimal.

The market has also affected contributions to GBCH&FM as well. “The majority of individual donors to this ministry are senior adults on fixed incomes, who themselves may be facing a decline in their own investments,” said Robert Croft, the agency’s director of development. “In the face of an uncertain economy, they simply don’t have extra to share with children in need.”

This reduction in force will trim operating expenses by $1,019,851 for the 2003 fiscal year (July 1, 2002 – June 30, 2003). Of the 32 positions eliminated, seven were already vacant. A total of 24 resident beds were eliminated with program closures or reductions. Of those, 16 were currently vacant, resulting in a net loss of only eight residential beds. Current residents affected by closures will be offered bed space in other programs.

The programs eliminated were the Family Counseling Program in Marietta, the International Adoption Program that includes humanitarian aid to an orphanage in Russia, the Independent Living Program in Douglas, Jean’s House for unwed mothers in Columbus, the on-campus school at the Meansville campus, adoption services and foster care.

Most of the programs closed were not functioning at capacity and are not part of the agency’s core services of providing residential care to abused children. Other positions eliminated that were not directly connected to the above programs were support staff.

“We hope and pray that we will not have to make any more reductions, as those would be severe cuts into our basic residential programs,” Dobbs said. “One thing is for sure, however: We will come out of this stronger than we have ever been, and more effective than we have ever been, because God loves this ministry and the children we serve more than we do.” Dobbs also reiterated that the cuts are a necessity of the current economic climate and not an indication of needs the agency serves. “The need is great and as long as children live in a state of abuse and fear, this ministry will be there to provide a home of safety and a future of hope,” he said.

Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries, Inc., is a nonprofit ministry that serves abused, neglected and troubled children and families. This past fiscal year, 818 children were served by GBCH&FM in residential programs at 14 locations across Georgia. As the agency does not receive Baptist Cooperative Program funding, it depends on the direct support of churches and individuals to meet an annual operating budget of $13 million.

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