In this section Mercy Multiplied continues their advice for those wanting to establish a residential counseling ministry. It’s all about fundraising or as the subtitle of this section calls it “Developing relationships and revenue.” Most of this information is pretty dull and common sense and easy to find elsewhere with more depth and better explanation. I’m not sure why Mercy is sharing all this general information as if it’s something unique to their operations, but whatever their thinking, let’s take a look at some of the concerning mindsets hidden in the midst of this general knowledge.
They talk about supporters needing to see what their support is doing. To this end Mercy says that they’ve found it helpful to “allow them [supporters] access to former residents testimonies” and other things such as new home projects, prayer requests, etc. Notice how Mercy is the one permitting others to have information about residents. It may seem like a small thing, and if it were just a one-time thing, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Lots of little things added together though can point to some big problems. There’s nothing about maintaining the residents’ privacy, nothing about protecting the residents’ information, nothing even about being sure to have obtained consent to use residents’ stories. The focus is not on the residents, it’s on the money. Residents’ stories are casually treated like a commodity to be traded for supporters and financial donations. You may think that that sounds a little harsh…just my take on a few meaningless words, but it’s in the little things through which the mentality shows.
Along those same lines the only other references to residents in this section also refer to using their stories to advance fundraising and support:
Talking about how residents’ stories can add to presentations: “their testimonies will add an exciting and personal aspect to the outreach” (p. 14).
Recommendations for footage for future presentations: “residents being reunited with their parents, babies who were born to residents, baptisms, young women telling their stories, and other various activities” (p. 14).
Things that can be put in newsletters: “pictures, testimonies of residents and parents, articles, and success stories” (p. 16).
Again, let’s note that there’s no mention of making sure that this footage is respectful of residents’ privacy and information or cautions to gain consent for the use of images and stories before using them publicly. One could argue that this is understood in this day’s world of advertising and promotional materials. It seems unlikely though they are also specifically informing readers that they will need to purchase a digital camera, screen, and powerpoint program in order to be equipped for presentations. I personally find it a bit insulting to the readers that they felt the need to specify…I mean, there’s only 41 pages here total and they’re taking up that precious print space telling people to buy powerpoint to give presentations? If someone doesn’t have the common sense to know they’ll need software in order to give presentations, they have no business establishing a residential counseling ministry!
Of course, this section wouldn’t be complete without the admonition against accepting government funding. “The acceptance of government funds will add many restrictions to the operation of your program and may create stipulations regarding staff employment, who you can accept into the program, and how you can minister to the residents’ needs.” They state pretty clearly their reasoning behind their refusal of government funds. They say that accepting government funds will:
- Add many restrictions to the operation of your program.What kind of restrictions might these be? Record keeping, informed consent, treatment plans, accountability for ethics violations, having real data to back up their success claims, staff to resident ratios that are appropriate, certifications to meet the minimum standards for a residential treatment facility, etc. I fail to see how avoiding any of these helps anyone but the organization itself. It almost seems as if they’re considering anything that allows for grievances and abuses to be brought to light to be “restrictions”. There’s nothing about this that is beneficial to the residents themselves…the benefits are solely to the individuals with power within the organization.
- Create stipulations regarding staff employment.
Um, yeah, these stipulations would mean that Mercy would have to hire people who are qualified, not allow untrained individuals to practice psychotherapy, have actual medical staff on site, have proper psychiatric oversight of individuals’ treatment plans, have nutritionists who are certified and experienced…and they might even have to do <gasp> background checks…(more on that in an upcoming post). Once again who benefits from avoiding these “stipulations”? Not the residents, that’s for sure! You can again see this subtle difference in the priorities publicly proclaimed and some conflicting implicit mindsets.
- Create stipulations regarding who you can accept into the program.I’m not really sure what stipulations there would be as far as acceptance of residents…Are they saying that they might not be allowed to take people into the program that they’re not equipped to deal with? Are they saying that they might have to accept people into the program that they don’t want to accept? Is it just a power thing? If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments below.
- Create stipulations regarding how you can minister to the residents’ needs.I’m sensing a theme here. If they take in government money, they’d be required to meet government standards and not be able to do what they want to do without any oversight or requirements. Are they worried that they won’t be allowed to treat mental illnesses with prayer sessions alone? Are they worried that they would be required to meet the residents’ medical needs? Are they worried that they might not get to use the residents as their cleaning staff? What are they so interested in doing that government regulations would prohibit? I mean, federal money can’t be used to directly fund religious worship, instruction, or proselytization, so I can understand not accepting government funding for that reason, but if that’s the reason why not just say that? What’s the deal with all these government restrictions and stipulations that it’s so necessary for them to avoid?
And back to the residents’ stories as fundraising fodder. In case anyone is wondering, I am more than an attention-getting testimony at a fundraising event. My story is not available for a suggested donation, even if Mercy seems to think that it should be.
**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**