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Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries has “the longest name possible for an organization like ours,” acknowledged Derek Brown, who has been executive director for three years. It is also the oldest finalist for this year’s Arkansas Business of the Year Awards, having been founded in 1894.
It was originally established as a mission by members of the Baptist faith in Arkansas seeking to meet the needs of children without families. “At the time, that looked a lot like an orphanage,” Brown said.
A century and a quarter on, the organization is a collection of five distinct ministries, one of which remains the original: Arkansas Baptist Homes for Children. This program now comprises five homes in Springdale, Little Rock and Jonesboro.
The second ministry is Arkansas Baptist Ranch in Harrison, where there are four homes and resources on campus “to help make those foster homes successful.”
Connected Foster Care & Adoptions provides private foster care and resources, and this ministry partners with the state government to do placement services within the organization and in the community.
Living Well Counseling provides counseling services to children, adults and families.
The fifth ministry, Desired Haven Family Care, provides advocacy for vulnerable families around the state. Its clients, Brown said, are “families trapped in the cycle of needing to earn income, provide child care, have reliable transportation and other resources.”
At any given time, 150 children may be staying in some kind of residence that Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes manages. The organization has a budget of $7.4 million this year and operates 30 ministry locations around the state. This summer a new ministry center will open on West Markham Avenue in Little Rock.
While the organization is affiliated with the Baptist faith, there is no religious requirement for clients.
“Spirituality is a component to what we do, but they don’t have to be religious to come to those programs,” Brown said. “This is Arkansas Baptists loving Arkansas families.”