COLUMBUS • After 125 years of service, the Palmer Home for Children is expanding how they will serve children in Mississippi and throughout the region.
While Palmer Home was originally founded as an orphanage, the organization decided to consolidate their campuses and introduce foster care, family care and transitional care in an effort to increase their work across the state.
“What drove us to make these changes is that we could serve more children and we could serve them better,” said Palmer Home CEO Drake Bassett. “When you go back to our original mission in 1895, which is to basically provide a safe home for a child, we realized we could do that in a variety of ways.”
Family care involves working closely with incarcerated mothers at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville through a partnership with Jonah’s Journey. The program builds relationships with mothers by keeping them in contact with their child once placed with a family. Reunification is the primary goal.
Transitional care serves those from ages 18 to 24 who have experienced a volatile childhood and successfully make their way to independence. There are currently 15 people in transitional care, 13 of whom are in college and two in technical programs, Bassett said.
“They’re beginning to experience life. They’re buying a car or they’re getting a job; they’re getting an apartment; they’re just learning their way and all of those things make us feel that we’ve made the right decision. We see a lot of possibilities for the future,” Bassett said.
The faith-based nonprofit still offers campus care on its Hernando campus, which is 150 acres and has six homes that can house approximately 50 children in total. Bassett said the goal is taking children in crisis from campus care to foster care.
The campus has a lake and offers residents education, music, sports, counseling, a gym, chapel, swimming pool, and agricultural opportunities. Among future plans is to build a wellness center, which will be an $8 to $10 million project.
Palmer Home also trains and certifies families to care for children through its foster care program. The goal is placing children in foster homes that will care for them until they reach independence.
There are currently seven to eight families in training, and in March, they can start placing children. They are launched in three areas: Columbus, Hernando and Oxford. There are future plans to expand to Jackson and Corinth, and there will be interest meetings to find families willing to be foster parents.
Through their switched approach to have four programs, they were able to serve 220 children last year and hope to serve as many as 300 this year. Bassett said though the primary goal is impacting every individual child, he hopes to create a ripple effect where they can help 400 or more children.
“When I think of outcomes, I certainly think of every single child, their story, their outcome, but I also recognize that if we do things right, that we’ll be able to do that for lots and lots of children,” Bassett said.
Underneath all programs is the whole child initiative, which pays attention to a child’s education, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs. Every child receives a whole child review where specific action steps are in place for each area, and both teams and parents are trained.
The organization has approximately 60 team members in two categories: child services, which has approximately 40 members, and 20 in engagement, lead by Sarah Hollis of Oxford.
The Palmer Home for Children can serve children from all over, but most come from Mississippi. They use their their long history of being a leader in assisting children in crisis to help build partnerships throughout the state. This includes building relationships with Child Protective Services, judges and churches. Every year, they host an annual Mudbug Bash in Hernando to raise funds, and host local events in different cities and have an annual Radiothon to raise awareness.
Bassett believes that with time and resources, Mississippi will be able to stop some of the crises seen with children.
“When I look at the challenge in front of us, and I think about the need that’s there, I’m not discouraged at all. I’m actually very, very excited that, with the hearts and the minds and the resources of the people of Mississippi, and our programs matched together. . . that we can begin to be optimistic about turning those tides,” Bassett said.
Palmer Home is privately funded. Anyone looking to get involved with Palmer Home can visit https://palmerhome.org to learn more about them and see chances to give, volunteer and get in contact. Bassett also encourages people to give them their prayers, and operational fund gifts are always welcome.