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MSW Alumna Helps Lead Presbyterian Home for Children to an Essential Accreditation

By Brad Fisher

Oct. 1, 2020

Felecia Ayers Storey

What does it take to achieve the premier accreditation in your industry? For the Presbyterian Home for Children in Talladega, Alabama, it took almost two years of work by a dedicated team led by President Doug Marshall and Vice-President of Program Operations and Services – and University of Alabama School of Social Work graduate – Felicia Ayers Storey.

The Home was awarded accreditation in June by the Council on Accreditation, the nation’s leading accrediting organization for social service agencies in the U.S. and Canada.

The Presbyterian Home for Children has provided services to children since 1868. Although it was originally founded as an orphanage, today it provides a wider range of services for children, young adults and families from all across Alabama and beyond. Its programs include Secure Dwellings, an on-campus ministry for homeless children and their female caregivers along with Transition to Adult Living for homeless young women age 19-24; a therapeutic residential care program for Moderate Care teenage girls who have been subject to extreme abuse and/or neglect; Temporary Supportive Housing program; and Family Bridges, a family preservation and reunification program serving families in crisis in a seven-county area.

Their success speaks for itself, but the backstories of Marshall and Storey are very different and could provide a model for other non-profits to follow.

Marshall is a highly accomplished operational, financial, tax, marketing and human resources executive with extensive leadership experience in some of the state’s most respected for-profit businesses and not­for-profit organizations.

As for Storey, she just celebrated 35 years – her entire professional career – at the Home, starting as a social worker and working up to Vice President of Program Operations and Services.

“I’ve done every job here except maintenance,” she said. “It was intended for this to be my mission, my ministry.”

Marshall and Storey jokingly refer to themselves as “City Mouse” and “Country Mouse” because Marshall comes from the private sector in Birmingham, where there are more resources and specialization, while Storey has always worked at the Home in Talladega, where funds and personnel are sparse.

Marshall found his way to the Home after building a 25-year career with Energen Corporation, where he served as Vice President/Controller of Spire, formerly Alagasco.

The Home is a 152-year-old ministry of the Presbyterian Churches of Alabama that provides a faith based safe haven for children and families through programs which nurture, educate and equip individuals to become the fully functioning persons God created them to be.

Storey is well known and highly respected in the state as a leader in social services over her distinguished career. She graduated with a Master of Social Work (Children, Youth & Families) from The University of Alabama after obtaining a BSW and a minor in English from The University of Montevallo. Storey has served as a field instructor for the UA School of Social Work and Jacksonville State University, in addition to being adjunct faculty for Talladega College. She is a Licensed Master Level Alabama Social Worker (LMSW) along with being a Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard On Site Official and Trainer. Her various professional volunteer activities include being current secretary and past treasurer for the Alabama Residential Child Care Association, past president and vice-president of the Alabama South-Eastern Child Care Association, and she has held multiple leadership positions with The University of Alabama Social Work Society.

Of utmost importance to Storey is her faith and her Christian walk throughout her life. In addition to serving in the ministry of the Presbyterian Home for Children, she is a member of Mt. Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, where she, along with her husband James, serve in several leadership roles. Storey serves as Deaconess, Superintendent of Sunday School, Church Trustee and Financial Secretary. Storey believes that it is her strong Christian background that has provided the foundation for her growth and leadership at the Presbyterian Home for Children.

Since her first job as a Licensed Basic Residential Care Social Worker, Storey has served as Director of PHFC Emergency Shelter, Director of Presbyterian Transitional Center Assessment Program, Coordinator of Programs & Services for PHFC, Crisis Stabilization Center, Director of Moderate Residential Care, Director of Secure Dwellings, and Interim President. In addition to her role as Vice President of Program Operations and Services, she currently serves as the Director of Family Bridges Intensive In-Home Services and Director of Continuing Education at the Home.

In addition to her heart for service, Storey has well demonstrated her ability to write and implement programs over her career at the Home.

“The State of Alabama Department of Human Resources (SDHR) sends a formal request for service proposal, an RFP, when there is a need for a particular service,” Storey said. “You do internal research to first see if it is financially feasible to apply, and then to determine if it’s a fit for your community.”

Although the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds are different, Storey said the ability to create and operate a social program “is like writing out a plan for an upstart business.”

Her solid educational foundation, her deep institutional knowledge over those 35 years and proven talent at developing programs allow her to create and manage every aspect of the program side of the Home, while Marshall’s experience is in operations, finance and resource development, Storey said.

It took every bit of Marshall’s and Storey’s joint talents – as well as a tremendous amount of work from Manager of HR and Accreditation Mandy Gaines and their experienced staff representing every functional area at the Home and support of the Board of Trustees – to accomplish the COA accreditation.

“COA rigorously evaluated all aspects of our programs, services, management and administration against international standards of best practice in the field of human services that ultimately support our clients, staff and communities. We are so proud of our team for this amazing accomplishment,” Storey said.

Marhsall said COA accreditation is important because it’s a “formal recognition of the high performance standards that have always made the Home special.”

Marshall said the Home planned to achieve COA accreditation in the future, but a new federal law – the Family First Prevention Services Act – led the SDHR to likely make national accreditation a requirement for agencies that provide services to families under contracts awarded by ADHR.

“Part of the work for this accreditation occurred during the COVID-19 quarantine and in the midst of the most trying of times, we just achieved a historic accreditation by COA,” Marshall said. It was not an easy process. At end of the day, the people who will benefit from the accreditation most are the people we serve.”

To achieve COA accreditation, the Presbyterian Home for Children first provided written evidence of compliance with the COA standards, followed by a series of on-site interviews with trustees, staff and clients conducted by a group of specially trained volunteer Peer Reviewers who confirmed adherence to these standards. The accreditation process took about two years and involved documenting best practices across all functional areas of the Home. COA accreditation demonstrates accountability in the management of resources, sets standardized best practice thresholds for service and administration, and increases organizational capacity and accountability by creating a framework for ongoing quality improvement. The accreditation must be renewed every four years in order to remain valid.

Based on their findings, COA’s volunteer-based Accreditation Commission voted in June of 2020 that the Home had successfully met the criteria for accreditation.

The Home has been accredited by the EAGLE (Educational Assessing Guidelines Leading toward Excellence) Accreditation Commission, the world’s only faith-based accrediting body under the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries, since 2017.