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'Back to its roots'

Staff Photo by L.A. Story

Pine Vale Children's Home has chosen to return to its established mission. They are currently transitioning from state-placed children to private placements.

By L.A. Story lastory@dailycorinthian.com

Budget woes for the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services is listed as one of the bullet points in the decision to transition Pine Vale Children's Home "back to its roots."

With lawsuit settlement compliance regarding caseloads, $35 million dollars is still needed to meet the CPS commissioner's budget request and generally uncertain stability within the CPS, as reported in a March 21 article by the Jackson Free Press, Pine Vale Children's Home officials have chosen to undergo a transition.

"We feel we can be of greater benefit to the children we serve because we will have greater control over the services we offer. We are at an interesting time. We're transitioning from providing foster care for state-placed children through Child Protective Services over to what we call private placement children," said Pine Vale Executive Director Randy Collum. "It's kind of the same type of children, just coming from different circumstances."

The director said the children would be placed at Pine Vale by their own legal guardian to work through a two-year program to better the child and the family with the ultimate goal of reunification.

"Sometimes that may be grandparents that are tasked with raising the grandchildren," said Collum. "Sometimes that may be people going into some sort of rehab treatment for an extended time. It may be just children trying to cope with the traumas of life and families that are dealing with trauma that need to receive some help. That's where we're headed and that's the future we're trying to build."

Pine Vale was established in the Corinth area in 1971. The first house was finished in 1976 and houses and facilities have been added since then.

The children's home runs three cottages. They currently have 10 children, but can maintain their level of service with as many as 12 to 18 children with six in each cottage. Each cottage has a husband and wife who serve as house parents and this is part of what makes Pine Vale unique and will not change, said the director.

"Each of the homes are done in family style with house parents who take care of the children like family," said Collum. "We're not getting away from that. They (the children) live there 24/7 and that is technically their house. They (the house parents) try to show our model to the children of a Christian family."

Pine Vale is primarily funded through the Churches of Christ, but being a 501(c)(3) organization, also receives community help for the children.

The annual Rooster Run event on Saturday has chosen Pine Vale as the charity of choice to benefit this year.

Collum said when he first spoke with Rooster Run organizers, their main goal was to raise funds for a new cottage. However, the new cottage will have to be a longer term goal. For now, he said they need to "raise the roof' for their level of service, rather than a literal roof, for the children they serve as they make it through this transition.

Pine Vale will certainly need the assistance. The director said Pine Vale's state contract is good until the end of June. Pine Vale officials have chosen not to renew that contract, which will cost the children's home about $20,000 a month, but the level of care should remain "roughly the same," Collum said.

The needs of Pine Vale Children's Home will remain the same. They will take donations of all kinds, from old cars, food items, clothes or furniture.

"We're located on 52 acres in the Wenasoga community. Anything you can use at your house, we can use at our house times 10," said Collum. "We're running three houses here with children tearing up anything and everything as children will do. We go through clothes ... we go through food."

Donations of all types are always needed, but they absolutely need financial donations. "We cherish financial donations of whatever kind," said Collum. "The primary need for these children is for someone to take care of them. Which means my primary burden is to pay people to take care of the children. This is a full time job for everyone here. The house parents who are here - this is their life. It's not a job. It's their lifestyle. We're calling what we're doing 'going back to our roots.' We're going back to what Pine Vale was established to be."

(For those who cannot make it to Saturday's Rooster Run event, monetary donations can be made directly to Pine Vale through their website at pinevalechildrenshome.com.)