Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sunrise girls home to close doors in Dixon

 The JE learned last week of the rather abrupt closing of the Sunrise Children’s Services residential center for Girls in Dixon.  The Dixon Center has served adolescent girls since 1983 in the Webster County community, but last week Sunrise announced that it would close. 
Calls to the local center were referred to Sunrise’s corporate office.  John Shindlebower, Associate Director of Communications acknowledged the change and provided additional information that emphasizes a new direction for Sunrise in Western Kentucky, primarily their intent to increase services to families as the nonprofit closes the residential program for girls in Dixon. 

Sunrise President Dale Suttles said the Dixon facility is not equipped to serve as many girls as the agency will be able to do by offering counseling and assistance directly to the homes of families in crisis.  
“The state has been referring fewer clients to facilities in this region,” said Suttles.  “This will allow us to expand our family-based services in Western Kentucky where we can actually go into homes and serve entire families. We can re-allocate funds to serve even more people in this region.  This is a positive change that will allow us to continue our mission of serving at-risk children.” 
In fact, most referrals are now being made to residential centers in more metropolitan areas, not to rural centers like Dixon. In addition, the state is making fewer overall placements in residential treatment centers like Dixon.  
The state changed the standards for clients in residential treatment, said Kenny Williams, Sunrise Vice President of Community-Based Services. “Those we’ve served at Dixon for over 25 years will not be referred to us any longer.”   
Suttles noted the Dixon Center needs upgrades, but the decreased demand for services contributed to recurring operational losses at the facility.  
“All of these factors led Sunrise to this decision,” said Suttles.  
“Dixon will be missed,” said Don Ingle, Sunrise’s Vice President of Residential Treatment. “Dixon has a history of caring, and its nurturing staff helped numerous teenage girls since its opening. It was a safe place full of community support from local churches and residents,” said Ingle. 
The Dixon girls have been welcomed to attend the local school that’s located next to the center and were treated compassionately and fairly by teachers and administrators. 
Kellie Neal, Foster Care Director of Sunrise’s Lakes and Rivers Region, said Sunrise’s impact in Western Kentucky will only increase despite the closing of Dixon, where Neal formerly served as director. 
“We have family services teams throughout the region that do intensive home counseling and therapy with children and families at risk,” said Neal.  “There is also a need for loving families who feel called to foster abused and neglected children,” she said. 
“The Dixon center and its dedicated staff have improved the lives of hundreds of young girls through the years. There are so many success stories that began at this facility. We’re thankful for the support that the entire community provided to Sunrise at our Dixon center and to the girls we served there,” said Suttles. 
Questions remain about the overall impact to the community and staff, but will be announced when they become available
Sunrise Children’s Services, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC), has faced several legal battles in the last few years, all stemming from the termnation of employee Alicia Pedreira from KBHC’s Spring Meadows Children’s Home.
According to a suit filed by Pedreira, she claimed that she was terminated in 2000 because her committed relationship with another woman was inconsistent with KBHC’s religious beliefs. Other parties object to the use of state tax dollars to fund KBHC, a faith-based organization.
Pedreira’s employment discrimination claims were dismissed by the court, but in 2009 the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals permitted the portion of the suit alleging that state-funded activities advanced religion to continue.
In July of 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Simpson III of Louisville approved a settlement in the case, ruling that state officials must commit to ensuring that religious preferences of children in their care are respected.
Sunrise was opposed to the settlement and promised to appeal the decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sunrise is Kentucky’s largest non-profit provider of care to children in crisis. With a statewide network of foster homes, residential centers and community-based programs, Sunrise cares for about 600 children each day.  An affiliate of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Sunrise is accredited by The Joint Commission and has been serving Kentucky’s children since 1869. To learn more about Sunrise, visit

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