Boles Orphan Home . . . Things Have Changed!

By Hayes Reneau

Few members of the church of Christ are unaware of Boles Home. Most know it played a dominant role in the ugly division which exists today. The following article written by reporter Theresa Causbie Dempsey appeared in the Herald Banner of Greenville, Texas, March 27, 1988. 1 didn’t want to reproduce the whole thing, but for fear of claims that I had not clearly stated something, I will. I don’t believe all those churches who are sending support to Boles Home know what it has become, “a small city.” I believe that those who contribute are being told that the benevolence is to support orphans. The article says there are no orphans. Money that is contributed spills over into the school district which offers secular education to many more than the “home” includes. The protests that there is a separation of facilities are purely cosmetic. Read this and pass it along.

“QUINLAN – It began in January 1925 as a home for orphans on farmland donated by Hunt County residents W. F. Boles and his wife Mary. In the 63 years since, Boles Home Inc. has cared for more than 8000 children and remains one of the leading group child care facilities in the area.

“The superintendent of the home, Alan Sowders, said even though the facility has been located in Hunt County since it was established, there is still some misunderstanding about the home.

“He said many people believe the home still to be strictly an orphanage, when it is actually a temporary rare facility for children from ages 5 to 18 years, who, for one reason or another cannot reside with their family for a period of time.

“‘Most people in Hunt County don’t realize we are a family service center. We provide 24-hour-a-day care, the full gamut of what a family would provide,’ Sowders said, ‘plus the services that a child needs outside the home such as counseling. And, work as much as possible with the family to get that child home.”‘

“Sowders said very few of the children now coming to Boles Home are parentless and looking at extended stays at the home.

“‘In the last 15 years the length of the average stay has been dropping. In 1950 the average stay was eight to 10 years. Now if the children are here one and one-half to two years, it’s unusual. About 20 percent are long term – four, five, six years. And that’s when something has happened so there is no other solution.’

“The home superintendent said the facility is supported by the Churches of Christ, whose donations account for about 30 percent of the home’s operating funds. Periodic donations and gifts account for about 30 percent and Sowders said bequests in wills and estates are becoming more beneficial. Very little of the Boles Home $1.25 million annual budget comes from the state and federal funds, he said.

“‘We try to stabilize the children and the family, to get them back where they belong. Here at Boles Home we know we can’t do as good a job as a good home – but we know we can do a whole lot better than a poor home.

“‘We do what we can to aid the suffering, hurt and trauma of a divided home, over which the child usually has no control,’ Sowders said.

“He said that the number one goal is always reuniting the family, but failing that, the home is capable of supplying a child’s need through graduation and standing behind him for his plans after graduation.

“In a partnership, Boles Home Inc., the Boles Home Independent School District and Boles Home Church of Christ, make up a small city. The home facilities include the cottages for the children and their house parents, administration buildings, a commissary and the school buildings which are leased by the school district. A visitor also finds a natatorium, a beef lab, a ceramics lab, an agriculture building and other similar facilities.

“Sowders said perhaps the biggest misconception is that the Boles Home School is a private school for the Boles Home children only.

“Boles Home ISD is a state-supported, state-accredited school district – that just happens to be the smallest in the state in terms of geographic size. Gram Sweeney, the ISD superintendent, said the district covers six square miles, with three of those covered by Lake Tawakoni.

“‘We have 200 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade’ Sweeney said. ‘About 30 or 50 of those are from Boles Home, about 80 are transfers and the remainder are from the community in the district.

“‘We are one of the poorest districts in the state, yet with assistance from the home, we have some of best facilities of any Class-A school in Texas. We have an indoor pool, four vocational programs and we are in the second year of participating in TI-IN,’ Sweeney said.

“TI-IN is a satellite educational program sponsored by the Region 10 Educational Service Center that offers smaller school districts the opportunity to teach advanced classes they might otherwise not be able to offer.

“Sweeney said the leasing arrangement between the home and the school district is the only one in the nation. The district employs 21 teachers with one principal and has an annual budget of approximately $750,000.

“Sowders said many social workers think group care for children is an anachronism. ‘We were told 10 years ago that group care was on the way out – that foster care was the way to go. We don’t think that’s always so.

“‘It takes 10 times the adjustment on the part of the child in a foster home than it does here. We don’t become his family, he doesn’t have to do away with his own personality. We encourage contact with the family and intrude as little as necessary.’

“Sowders said in the cottages, which are segregated by sex and age, children learn how a successful family functions from the examples set by their houseparents. A child who can function and get along with others in a family setting, can do so in the community setting.

“One cottage is co-ed. The junior and senior cottage is a mixed group to prepare the teens for independent living.

“‘We want these children to function responsibly for themselves and see living as something they can control. They are surrounded by people who are successful and are on their way to becoming successful,’ Sowders said.

“Approximately 50 children are currently residing at the home, but the budget is set to care for 75. Plans are to begin construction of another cottage within a year.

“Sowders said the families of the children maintain custody and have the right to remove the children from the home. ‘We never say to parents, “You have failed. Now let us take over and you get on down the road,” He said.

“‘We tell people if their child has needs they can’t meet, we’ll help until they can,’ Sowders said.

“Boles Home, which operates under a Board of Directors of I I men, is in the midst of designing a 10 years program -‘Boles 98.’ Sowders said the plan will include campus structures, services, staff needs, necessary funding goals to be reached along the way.

“‘Sowders said, ‘We’ll be here as long as children and their families need help getting their lives in order. We’ll be glad to close down when we’re no longer needed.”‘

There you have it. Boles Homes is growing at a phenomenal pace. Its growth is made possible by exploitation and deception. People don’t know what they are supportingi And furthermore they are misled by misleading reports. One item is herein clarified: Boles Home owns the buildings which they lease to themselves, under the term Boles Home ISD. This in turn is shown as a deficit. Likewise, milk, meat, and vegetables from the Boles Home farm is in turn sold to themselves at prices far above retail. This too is shown as a deficit. Goods gathered by churches to feed the orphans are picked up and sold at the commissary.

Money is gathered in from the State and Federal governments, property rentals, churches and wills of people who believe they are helping poor little orphans. The only report I know of which has been made public is the one brother L. L. Dukes “persuaded” Gayle Oler (deceased) out of in 1966. It was too revealing for them, even then.

I firmly believe anything a church can support away from home, they can support at home. Brethren, what objection would you offer to the elders if they proceeded to build a swimming pool, a gymnasium (a “natatorium” yet!), and have ceramic classes where you worship? Moreover it would be for all citizens of the community! What would you say about the money collected to do the Lord’s work being used for such? If the church where you are a member sends money to the “small city” of Boles Home, how could you honestly protest?

Brother Sowders’ claim that Boles Home provides a more family-like arrangement than foster homes is ludicrous. If that isn’t what he means I have missed the point. “It takes 10 times the adjustment on the part of the child in a foster home than it takes here. We don’t become his family, he doesn’t have to do away with his own personality.” Court Family Services investigate to assure that a family applying for foster home status is a family arrangement which would put the child in a normal, natural home atmosphere. He certainly doesn’t have to do away with his personality! He sees normal family conditions, he has no intimidation of institutional surroundings. Think about it.

In the Herald Banner April 24, 1988, under the heading Foster parenting filled with challenges Jayne Cannon writes of a family in Campbell Texas. She reports: “At ______ and _____’s home East of Campbell, there’s almost always room for one more.

“The ______ have seven children of their own but still open their home-and-hearts to foster children. Since August 1983, the ______ have been foster parents to more than 20 children. . . .

. . .”We get attached to the kids, sure,” ______ said, “But you’ve got to remember that most of the time what these kids want more than anything else is to go back home. From the time they get here, you’re working for something, and usually that’s to get them back home whether it’s to their parents or grandparents or an aunt or uncle. They want to be with family.”

In my discussions with these brethren and, indeed, all others James 1:27 was always the passage used to prove the scripturalness of churches supporting it. While James 1:27 is not authority for the church acting collectively to do anything; certainly even the wildest of imaginations cannot seriously and honestly apply it to the Boles Home of today.

Factually, it is most unusual to find someone who is pro-Boles Home being supported through church treasuries who even feels the need to attempt to prove its scripturalness. It is the norm to deride anyone who might ask for biblical precedent to sustain the practice. Prejudice the people against anyone who may inquire is the preachers’/elders’ tactic commonly employed: “He’s just another anti!” “With all the good we’re doing, how could it be wrong?” “It’s a ‘good work,”‘ etc.

After reading the foregoing article it stands apparent, if anyone feels former practices were sustained by Scripture, today it’s a brand new ball game! Surely brother and sister Boles had no vision of their orphan home becoming such as described by Sowders and Sweeney.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 13, pp. 394-396