Saint Francis Ministries charts a positive path forward
May 2021 · Hi-Lites, Ministry News
If you’re around Saint Francis Ministries Interim CEO William Clark very often, you’re going to hear the word integrity. For Clark, the concept of integrity is simple: Do the right thing at the right time for the right reason, even when no one is watching.
Clark stepped in to lead Saint Francis in late October 2021 when allegations of financial mismanagement were made against the organization’s top leaders through a whistleblower report to the Board of Directors. An independent investigation substantiated the allegations, and Clark immediately gathered a leadership team to stabilize and guide Saint Francis Ministries.
“Financially, Saint Francis was in a difficult position, and the team needed to take immediate action,” Clark said. “Since October, Saint Francis and the employees who work here have faced numerous challenges. I appreciate the 1,600 employees who have partnered with us to build a sustainable, solid way forward and who remain committed to the mission of our organization – bringing healing and hope to children and families. Together, we have worked to determine the best ways to support our mission.”
In the nearly six months since, Saint Francis has stabilized its financial situation, all the while maintaining the strong work the organization does to care for those we serve.
“Saint Francis is not defined by what has happened in the last six months. It is defined by the caring, principled individuals who spend their time and their hearts in service,” said Clark. “Through uncertainty created by the pandemic, leadership changes, and financial difficulties, the organization has continued to faithfully serve clients.”
The organization’s leaders have worked closely with state partners to ensure productive relationships and strategies to continue their work in each state are in place. Currently, Saint Francis offers a wide spectrum of services from family preservation to foster care to residential care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.
“Moving forward with a strategic and well-thought-out plan is important to our success,” Clark said.
To build a strategic plan, Saint Francis leaders focused on protecting the three core service pillars of the organization’s work: Prevention, Out-of-Home, and Residential. Difficult decisions came as leadership made tough choices, including the closure of International Ministries and Migration Ministries work.
While the challenges facing the organization are not over, Clark said Saint Francis is stabilizing and has addressed the most urgent concerns. In addition, multiple processes and procedures have been put into place, including:
• Restructure of the leadership team to better support management of state contracts
• Changing internal financial processes to enhance oversight and security
• Strengthening governance for the Board of Directors
• Establishing an open and transparent communication process with employees
• Close collaboration with partners to communicate and problem-solve challenges
The organization’s focus throughout fiscal years 2021 and 2022 will be on continuing the stabilization process, Clark said, which includes addressing employee engagement, updating the information technology system and strategic plan development. In FY 2023, the focus will turn toward internal investment, such as buying new computers and other needed items. The next year, Saint Francis will look toward moderated growth.
“Moving forward with a strategic and well-thought-out plan is important to our success,” Clark said. “The leadership team does not work alone in determining direction. We are seeking employee input in a variety of ways, and we will communicate with our many stakeholders as well. In social services, it is often said that one organization cannot make a difference without the support of the community that surrounds it. We know that to be true.”
Even with the challenges, the last six months at Saint Francis have reinforced the commitment of the organization’s staff to the work they do.
“It is often through trials and difficulties that we see the best of people, and I am grateful to say that this has been the case at Saint Francis,” said Greg Meissen, chairman of the Board of Directors. “Through uncertainty created by the pandemic, leadership changes, and financial difficulties, the organization has continued to faithfully serve clients.
“That is the Saint Francis Ministries I’ve been connected with for more than three decades,” he added. “Saint Francis is not defined by what has happened in the last six months. It is defined by the caring, principled individuals who spend their time and their hearts in service. Today, we remain focused on the work of our roots that were planted 75 years ago, and we are always looking forward to how we can better serve vulnerable and at-risk children and families.”
To read the full version of our Spring 2021 HiLites, click here.