Dr. John D. Damon is the CEO of Mississippi Children’s Home Services in Jackson. Damon has been with MCHS for 20 years. He received his bachelor of science degree in psychology from Mississippi College, his master of arts in marriage and family therapy from Reformed Theological Seminary, his doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology from Jackson State University and completed his residency in Child psychology at University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Q — What’s the mission of Mississippi Children’s Home Services?
A — We help children thrive. We do this by providing a statewide continuum of behavioral health and social services. We believe every child deserves a forever home and we partner with families and children toward that end.
Q — How has that mission changed and/or expanded over the years?
A — In 1912, we began as an adoption agency to find permanent, loving homes for children. One hundred and one years later, we are still about the work of finding permanent, loving homes and helping children thrive. As society has grown more complex over the last century, so have we. In just the past 30 years, we have grown from a staff of 20 to a staff of 450, serving all 82 counties in our great state. While the scope and size of our agency has expanded to meet the changing needs of Mississippi’s children and families, our mission remains unchanged.
Q — When did the home move to its new Lakeland Drive location? What necessitated the move?
A — We operate three distinct, yet complimentary service divisions: a campus-based division (where the emotional and behavioral needs of the child require that they have a temporary 24-hour care on one of our campus-based programs); a community-based division (where we serve the child and family in their own home, school and community); and, an education division (which provides special education and autism services within our campus and community-based divisions).
The management of the organization exists to serve these three service divisions. These support functions could be located anywhere in the state. Therefore, when our community-based division needed more office space, we moved the administrative office from our West Street location to what used to be the Barksdale Bonding building on Lakeland Drive. This consolidated our operations in Jackson, along the fist three blocks on West Street from Woodrow Wilson, and placed the administrative offices in a centralized location on Lakeland drive. We have remodeled the east end of the building to include a state-of-the-art board and training facility.
As we provide best-practice training in our field, this location will be easily accessible to our staff and the community. Also, consistent with our strategic goal to become a more visible leader in the state and in the nation for children and families, this office location will provide a higher profile for MCHS.
Q — Tell us about the open house coming up at the new facility. What’s the goal of the event?
A — Tuesday, May 21, from 5-7 p.m., we will host an Open House for the public to come and see our new office location and our state-of-the-art conference and training center. Furthermore, consistent with our mantra, “never one thing for one purpose,” our board of directors wanted to use this event as a reception to introduce me as the agency’s seventh leader in our 101-year history. This will be a wonderful time for the public to tour our offices, meet our amazing board of directors and staff, and of course, hear about the wonderful work we are doing to help children thrive all across the state.
Q — Moving forward, what’s MCHS’ biggest challenge?
A — The Affordable Healthcare Act and the many healthcare changes it will bring will require a highly adaptive, nimble and highly trained workforce. While adequate funding is always a challenge, I am reminded of Jim Collin’s council – “First who, then what.” Making sure we have “the right people on the bus” (first who) will assure that we continue to rise to whatever the challenge may be (then what) in our second century of service.
Q — What do you hope is the future for MCHS?
A — As we step into our second century of service, our future success will be anchored on three important tenants: First, we will stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. The collective wisdom of our board and staff (past and present) is a very real asset in our future success. Second, we will route each organizational decision through the strategic anchors of our 4 core values – (1) the voice of our children and families always comes first, (2) relationships matter, (3) we take great joy in our service to others, and (4) our families and our communities deserve our very best. Finally, the future of MCHS will be successful because of the strength of our community partners. From our Board of Directors and Woman’s Auxiliary, to our public and private partners, to amazing individuals, such as our First Lady Deborah Bryant who has joined forces with us, the future for children and families (and MCHS) is bright and we will most certainly help children thrive in our second century just as we did in our first. Our past success has been built through strong partnerships with the business community. We will continue to look to the business community to help us transform lives in the century to come.
More on Damon:
Must have Mississippi food: The Red Fish Anna from Walker’s Drive-In is a must-have. Unfortunately, due to late-onset shellfish allergies, I have to pass on the lump crabmeat.
Favorite movie: Although it was passed over in all the Oscar Awards, Chevy Chase’s “Funny Farm” wins the day.
Last book read: Patrick Lencioni’s “The Advantage” is an absolute must read that has resulted in MCHS working with his consulting firm, “The Table Group,” to help our organization move with intentionality to be not only “smart” but “healthy.”
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