Since 1890

The History of the United Methodist Children’s Home

The United Methodist Children’s Home was founded by the North Alabama and Alabama-West Florida Conferences of the United Methodist Church in 1890, with the belief that every child is entitled to live in a caring and nurturing home.

It began as the Alabama Methodist Orphanage located in Summerfield, Alabama. It moved to Selma in 1911 and became the United Methodist Children’s Home. The Children’s Village in Selma was constructed in 1940 as a beautiful community of 10 cottages and a quaint Chapel; a symbol of the faith, hope, solace and peace we hope to instill in our children.

As the needs of children and families change, the United Methodist Children’s Home evolves to meet those needs and is now much more than an “orphanage.” We have become a very vital, trusted and relied upon agency for childcare and family services.

Over the years, the United Methodist Children’s Home has established other service centers located throughout the state of Alabama and Northwest Florida to help thousands of children and family members through our “Babies First” programs, Therapeutic Foster Care programs, Family Preservation and Support services, and some Adoption and referral services – as well as through our historic Residential Group Homes for young people unable to live with their families for various difficult, and sometimes traumatic circumstances. The Selma campus was sold in 2010 as the childcare industry moved away from campus-style treatment to more community-based. The ministry headquarters moved to Montgomery, AL, where it continues to manage the diverse, holistic programs that transform the lives of children and families.

The United Methodist Children’s Home works closely with child welfare agencies, churches and extended families in both Alabama and Northwest Florida in order to provide the best possible care for abused and neglected children. The collaborative relationships we have established, and continue to pursue, exemplify the caring spirit of the United Methodist Children’s Home to reach children in need wherever and whenever we are able.

We are licensed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources, the Alabama Department of Youth Services, and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

UMCH Historical Timeline

As the needs of children and families change, the United Methodist Children’s Home evolves to meet those needs and is now much more than an “orphanage.” We have become a very vital, trusted and relied upon agency for childcare and family services.

1890

The brainchild of Rev. Sam P. West of the North Alabama Conference, the Alabama Methodist Orphanage was founded on faith and with $129 in Summerfield, Alabama. Charles Eppsworth Moore was the first resident. By 1905, 443 children had been served; 351 of them were adopted into privileged homes.

1911

After much prayer and debate, the ministry was moved to Selma and housed in the former Selma Military Institute on Broad Street. A nearby farm helped keep food expenses down and the children learned responsibility, discipline and essential life skills as they cared for the animals and tended and harvested the garden.

1939

A name change reflected the evolving needs of the children and the agency’s commitment to meeting them. The Alabama Methodist Orphanage became the Methodist Children’s Home. By 1965, only one true orphan lived at the home.

Late 1940's

The chapel was completed at the Selma Campus, which grew over the years to include a swimming pool, 10 cottages, tennis and basketball courts, residences for the executive director and chaplain, and, at one point, a 24-bed hospital. Residents attended church services, confirmation classes and participated in UMYF groups, Bible studies and retreats.

1960s

More and more of the children coming into UMCH’s care have been victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect. As a result, they often came with emotional and behavioral issues. Licensed social workers joined the staff and worked in partnership with state agencies in Alabama and Florida.

1968

The Methodist Church united with Evangelical United Brethren to become the United Methodist Church. The agency’s name was changed to United Methodist Children’s Home.

1971

In an effort to help children maintain relationships with their biological families and to foster the hope of eventual reunification when possible, child welfare advocates began to favor small, home-like settings in nearby communities. As a result, UMCH began opening licensed residential group homes. The first, a home for girls in Scottsboro, Alabama, was sold to UMCH for $1 by Scottsboro First United Methodist Church.

Through the 70s

Other group homes followed. UMCH currently operates group homes in Alabama and Florida, and each serves six to eight youth who can no longer live with their parents. The boys and girls, ages 11-18, often have mild to moderate behavioral and emotional problems. Family members remain involved and have supervised visits whenever possible. The Babies First program in Mobile serves teen mothers and their children.

1980s

Family preservation became one of the major focuses of child welfare providers. Advocates urged states to provide structured services so children could remain in their homes with safeguards in place to protect them.

1995

UMCH’s first family preservation program, Family Options Program, began in Dothan. The agency has served a seven-county area ever since. Now called FOCUS (Family Outcome Centered Unification Services), it provides intensive, in-home treatment so families can stay together. In its 20 years, the program has had a 90 percent success rate.

Early 2000s

Discussions about closing the Selma campus begin. Renovations necessary to meet the standards for residential care would cost more than the building and grounds are worth. Fewer children are placed there because of the state’s preference for foster care and group homes.

2010

The Board makes the difficult decision to sell the Selma campus 100 years after the Alabama Methodist Orphanage leaders made the decision to move from Summerfield to Selma. Painful decisions made a century apart had the same goal: to serve children and families with the highest quality of care.

2013

The Knabe Higher Education Homes allows students with a history of alternative care to attend college while living in a supportive, stable and loving environment. The Tuscaloosa scholarship home serves young men attending Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the University of Alabama, and the Florence scholarship home serves young ladies studying at the University of North Alabama.

2015

The United Methodist Children’s Home celebrated 125 years of ministry and continues to serve children, teens, young adults and families in the North Alabama and Alabama-West Florida conferences.