Mercy expectations

This is a recent piece by Mercy Survivor Kathryn who blogs at Comfortably Numb.

Some of it, I was prepared for…. Other things, not so much.

I knew it was going to be hard- I didn’t know it was going to be nearly impossible.

I knew they were going to be strict about nutrition- I didn’t know I’d be forced to swallow things I couldn’t stand. (Or that when I gagged on them, I’d be told I wasn’t “allowed” to throw up.)

I knew that there was going to be lots of church and spiritual training- I wasn’t prepared to get in trouble for simple things like sitting down during worship, not taking enough notes, or thanking a pastor after a sermon.

I was prepared to have stern rules for going to the mall- I was not prepared to get in trouble because I was 11¢ short for my shampoo, so the cashier gave me a quarter and that meant my change was off.

I’ve always known it’s important to stay clean- I never dreamt I’d get in trouble for going a single day without a shower.

I was aware that there was a fitness routine- I was not aware that I’d be disciplined for not working out enough on my own, outside of our daily trip to the local YMCA, in the time that I was supposed to be doing counselling assignments.

I knew that I’d have to learn to pray through anxiety and panic attacks- I didn’t know I’d be forced to stand up and read “God’s Creative Power” out loud (while I couldn’t breathe?) all the while being told that I was faking it.

I knew that there were precise bed times and times to get up at- I didn’t know that I’d get in trouble for falling asleep at any other time- even though I couldn’t help it because it was the meds making it hard to stay awake, and they wouldn’t let me reduce them without a change in prescription, but they wouldn’t let me see a doctor to get that change in prescription.

I was prepared for lots of counselling and hard work- I was completely unaware that the work I needed to do would be to read countless Joyce Meyer books and write reflections on them. Nor was I prepared to be told that I simply couldn’t move forward anymore unless I accepted that God loved me. (Have I heard it? Yes. Does my brain believe it? Yes. Had that knowledge transferred to my heart yet? No, but I didn’t know how to make that happen.)

I knew that they would want me to hear God’s voice, and speak back to Him in tongues- I was unprepared for my counselor to tell me that I was at a standstill, and unless I could hear Him audibly speaking to me, I couldn’t keep going.

I was aware that some of the things I’d done were unbelievable- I was not prepared to have the staff there second guess me and tell me they didn’t believe the truth.

I had razor blades embedded in my arm, and despite the fact that one was close enough to the surface to feel it, despite the fact that I had a letter from my GP (so that I could get through airport security) I was told that was simply not possible.

I thought that I was going to Mercy Ministries to be healed- I did not know that was supposed to happen by ignoring the physical doctors and just praying the bad things would go away.

I am from Canada and was at Mercy Ministries St. Louis. When I tried to enter the US, I had problems at the border. The way that I was finally allowed in, was complicated. If I left the United States, it would be difficult, if not impossible for me to get back in again. So, I knew that when all the other girls were travelling home for Christmas, I wouldn’t be able to go. I was told, by Mercy Ministries, that they would arrange for a host family that I could stay with over the holidays. As Christmas got closer, I was told that I couldn’t stay at Mercy Ministries, because it would be closing for the holidays, but that they didn’t trust me enough to let me stay with a host family either.

To put it bluntly- I was prepared for lots of church, spirituality and faith to be addressed- but I thought it would be in addition to, not instead of receiving professional medical help for my mental illness(es)- mental illness which the staff at Mercy Ministries were not qualified, nor prepared to deal with.

They should not be taking in these girls who have real issues and need real help and promising them things that they can’t deliver. It’s not fair, it’s not ethical, and it shouldn’t even be legal- yet somehow, it’s still happening.

Not a medical facility

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her personal blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

Not a medical facilityI’m going to take a bit a break from the manual review for this post.  The holidays are impossible to get away from, and it got me thinking about how Mercy Multiplied handled the Christmas holidays.  Because Mercy Multiplied is not an actual treatment facility, residential facility, medical facility, anything facility, they simply close down for two weeks for the winter holidays.  Anybody who isn’t familiar with quality treatment programs might think that this is normal, but it’s definitely not.  I’m been in multiple different treatment centers over the holidays various different years and while there were definitely more “passes” (treatment team permission to leave the facility to visit with family or friends), they never just shut down.  Think about it…hospitals don’t shut down.  They might discharge anybody and everybody they can, but when illness is so extreme to need 24-7 round the clock care and supervision, the assumption is that there are those who aren’t well enough to leave for two weeks.

One of the excuses reasons that Mercy Multiplied would most likely offer in response to this is that they are “not a medical facility.”  Mercy Multiplied is very careful (and has become increasingly more careful) in the words they officially use to describe their program.  I’m all about accuracy in description and reporting, but usually the purpose of this is to make sure that individuals are well-informed about a program and able to make a decision as to whether the program will be a good fit for their needs and beneficial for them.

Mercy Multiplied seems different than other quality programs (and even some non-quality programs) because while they are very careful to keep from using phrases such as “treatment facility” or “medical facility,” they are also simultaneously reaching out to specific populations of young women who are seeking treatment for various different reasons that require treatment or medical monitoring.  This leads me to believe that the care in their language and descriptions has much more to do with possible legal issues (because as we know from the manual’s review they definitely recommend getting well-qualified legal advice) than it does to making sure they are serving the right clientele and able to meet the needs of their residents.  Seems more like they’re following the advice of their lawyers to protect their organization at the cost of appropriate care for those they are claiming to help.  That’s just my take on it, though.

Think about it…have you ever tried going to a podiatrist for your toothache?  No, because you know that if you do they’ll turn you away and send you to a dentist.  They know  they are not qualified to care for you teeth.  Now they might tell you that taking care of your feet will help your teeth (it’s all part of the same body afterall), but they can’t tell you that they’ll take care of your teeth.  This is good, because you don’t want a foot doctor caring for your teeth anymore than you want a dentist doing your foot surgery.  You want a medical professional that is trained, certified, and experienced with the problem for which you are seeking help.  In other words, you want a dentist.  Mercy Multiplied claims that they are able to care for young women with mental illnesses, eating disorders, past abuse, self-harm, etc., but they aren’t actually qualified to do so.  Like they say, they’re not a medical facility.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this if they were to be responsible, make clear that they only offer basic prayer ministry from laypersons, and send applicants that need treatment to actual treatment facilities.  After all, when’s the last time you saw a podiatrist telling success stories about someone who needed a root canal? Eating disorders are a prime example.  While classified as a mental illness, eating disorders have significant medical and nutritional issues that must also be addressed in fact anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011).  But does Mercy Multiplied tell those applying that they are not qualified to treat eating disorders?  On the contrary, they actively promote the idea that they treat eating disorders.  I think when it comes to eating disorders, they are deceptive and medically negligent—and the same goes for other disorders and struggles.  Mercy Multiplied should not get to specify that they are NOT a medical facility while simultaneously acting as if they were. But that’s what Mercy Multiplied does.

I hear the comeback of course, you have to be “medically stable” in order to be accepted into the program.  An MD has to sign off on that, but there are several issues with that.

  1. The doctor signing off on a future resident’s medical stability does NOT have to be trained, certified, or even knowledgeable with regard to psychiatric diagnoses and their effects on medical stability.  (For those of you who have been spared the experience, most doctors are horrifically unknowledgeable about eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or trauma issues.  The last doctor that I saw asked why I was on Prozac.   When I told him it was for depression his response was “You don’t look depressed.”  I guess he wasn’t expecting me to be smiling?)
  2. Medical stability is often not well-defined, particularly for psychological disorders. Plus once a resident is in the program, is it simply assumed that they will maintain their medical stability?  (Maybe it’s changed since then, but I was there with an eating disorder for 9 months, and I don’t remember ever getting my blood pressure taken. And there was definitely not anyone there qualified to evaluate my state of mind or psychological distress levels.
  3. Even programs that are medical facilities often require medical stability.  (For instance, residential treatment centers for psychiatric issues require medical stability as do psychiatric hospitals that are not part of a medical hospital.  Not needing immediate medical care is not the same as not needing treatment or care whatsoever.)

If Mercy Multiplied is truly following their “not a medical facility” and not “treatment” line of reasoning, why aren’t they up-front about their lack of qualifications, denial of evidence-based care, and lack of validated proof of their claimed success rates? If the podiatrist treating your dental problems failed to make that sort of information clear, would you be okay with it?

Here’s the thing Mercy Multiplied —you don’t get to have it both ways: You don’t get to claim you’re not a treatment facility but promote yourselves as caring for individuals who need a treatment facility.  If you want to take your brand of ministry and spread it to the ends of the earth, fine, but you don’t get to lead people to think that it’s appropriate for those who need a treatment facility.

I wouldn’t have any problem with Mercy Multiplied saying that they’re a place where someone can come and spend time going to church, watching sermons, doing chores, listening to Joyce Meyer, and meeting with a prayer counselor–at least that description is somewhat accurate.

For all their talk of authenticity when it comes to finances, they are quite the opposite when it comes to information about the actual program.  They may have consulted a lawyer when putting together their promotional materials, but I don’t think they consulted a doctor.  But that’s okay right?  I mean, what matters is the organization and its reputation right?  It’s not like someone’s life is at stake…oh, wait…it is.

Let’s look at how the medically stable process went down in my case.  I was struggling with an eating disorder and other various self-destructive behaviors.  I saw a doctor that I’d never seen before who had no experience with any of these things.  That’s right, any old doctor would have done as long as there was a signature.  If I remember correctly the doctor that I saw was actually an orthopedic specialist because I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit so a friend of a friend got me in.  The doctor was required to sign off on a “medically stable” weight for me.  He put down the weight that I was because I was obviously “fine” if I was there seeing him.  I presented Mercy Multiplied as a treatment facility because that’s what I thought it was—after all, Mercy Multiplied knew what my issues and diagnoses were, and they accepted me, so I assumed they must be able to help me.

Mercy Multiplied themselves often shares the dire nature of a young women’s plight prior to coming to Mercy Multiplied in their success stories and information about the program.  They’ve taken in individuals from across the world that didn’t even have a doctor’s permission to fly due to their medically precarious state.  They’ve required individuals to remain unhospitalized while awaiting placement with Mercy Multiplied despite immediate medical and safety concerns that recommended hospitalization.  This is not just irresponsible, it’s dangerous and putting the lives of young women in jeopardy.  But they apparently can get away with this because they are “not a medical facility.”

After my time at Mercy Multiplied, I remember my treatment team and I seeking a residential or inpatient facility that would accept me because I had deteriorated far beyond the realm of outpatient care.  I remember being frustrated that there were facilities that refused to take me simply because of various diagnoses.  Now, while I still find the lack of facilities that specialize in certain various issues, there was wisdom in that.  At least they weren’t telling me that they could help me and take me in knowing that they couldn’t.  Mercy Multiplied didn’t offer me that kind of respect.  And as horrible as it would be for a facility to purport to be able to help someone and realize a bit into it that it was outside their realm of experience and then refer the patient out to appropriate care, Mercy Multiplied didn’t even do that.  Instead when Mercy Multiplied is faced with an individual who is failing to make “progress” in the program, the individual is blamed for not working the program, trying hard enough, submitting enough, or believing enough. Mercy Multiplied, their staff, and their program get immunity from any responsibility and don’t have to be accountable for the damage they are doing.

Think about being desperate for help, being evaluated by staff and doctors, being told you’re a good candidate, and being accepted into a program that doesn’t have the ability to help you.  Now imagine you’re in the program and finding the program is not helping you (surprise, surprise), but you’re told that it’s your fault the program is not helping even though they never had the ability to help in the first place.  This is the situation that many residents and former residents have found themselves up against at Mercy Multiplied.

And people give Mercy Multiplied a pass because they say they’re “not a medical facility.”  I wonder if people would have the same response if a podiatrist advertised for and knowingly accepted patients, specifically with dental issues, telling stories of a wildly successful cure?  Or maybe it’s only okay if you call it a ministry.

The “eye roll” warning… (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 10)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was published on her personal blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.

eye-rollThis post comes with a bit of a warning…the eye roll warning.  Due to this, I recommend carefully rotating your eyes up, down, and around to prepare your ocular muscles for the involuntary eye-rolling that could be a side effect of seeing the incredible stupidity that Mercy Multiplied continues to demonstrate in their so-called manual.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…we’ve come to the portion of Mercy Multiplied’s manual that talks about facilities.  Yes, my friend, we’ve already gone to having a building and location…and no, you didn’t miss the post where the manual talked about the actual care or treatment of residents in this hypothetical establishment of a residential counseling center.  I won’t go off again on how screwed up these priorities are, but does it seem odd that we’re already going to talk about what equipment you should buy to open a residential counseling center and not once has there been even a SUGGESTION of consulting with mental health professionals who have specialized training or experience?  And again, I’m getting repetitive, but if Mercy Multiplied is assuming that they need to tell their readers things to buy for such a facility such as storage cabinets, brooms, first aid supplies, and computers for the offices, you should probably not be recommending that they open a residential counseling center.  I mean, if you don’t have the cognitive ability to think these things through on your own, you are not the person to be creating an entire residential program for individuals with mental health disorders.  <deep breath>  Yeah, that’s why I recommended preparing your eyes for this topic.

Basically it’s a bunch of common sense recommendations that aren’t worth the digital paper they’re printed on…literally.  A Wikipedia article on how to start a small business would probably give you this much and more for free.  But in case you don’t know that you need to have a mop to clean the floors if you’re going to run a residential treatment center, Mercy Multiplied can hook you up with that information (for a small fee of course).

Now tagged onto the end of this section is a little paragraph entitled “Insurance”.  Guess what they recommend you should do when it comes to insurance and risk management?  They recommend that you find a good prayer counselor who has no training whatsoever on the topic of insurance and ask them what God’s will is for your insurance policy.  Just kidding, actually they recommend that you should “seek the guidance of a knowledgeable insurance agent…” (p. 29).  Now if I were Mercy Multiplied, I’d want an insurance agent that was not only very well-versed in risk management and insurance coverage but also to have an individual with legal experience as well, because they’re frankly treading on some really shaky ground when it comes to the “services” that they offer when it comes to legality and liability.  Maybe Mercy Multiplied doesn’t have to worry about that since it’s difficult for individuals who are struggling with life controlling mental illnesses to file lawsuits or for individuals who did not get the help they were promised to stay alive to then come back from the dead and file a complaint.  There’s some serious roadblocks to actual litigation and being held accountable when you’re dealing with a faith-based organization who refuses to come under any oversight, certification, or accountability with regard to the treatment and care of residents.

My favorite part about the insurance is the last line:

Only a licensed and reputable insurance agent should provide specific information on the requirements and recommendations for your ministry” (p. 29).

So, let’s remember that this is a ministry that is (supposedly) solely focused on the lives of young women who are struggling with mental illness, severe abuse, addiction, and other life controlling issues, but so far in the first three quarters of this manual the readers have been advised to seek reputable, experienced legal counsel, a certified public accountant, and a licensed and reputable insurance agent, but there’s been no mention of seeking ANY professionals who are experienced in the areas that the residents are seeking help in.  Does it not seem super hypocritical for Mercy Multiplied to make sure to tell you to find a licensed insurance agent when they refuse to even bother to hire licensed professional counselors for the very people that they are claiming to minister to?  I mean, personally I’d probably be more concerned about who was helping an individual who was chronically suicidal being qualified to help than someone helping me do my taxes.  If you get it wrong with your taxes, you’ll get in trouble with the IRS and you might even have to pay fines.  If you get it wrong with someone struggling illnesses with high mortality rates, there’s no fines…there’s no warning letter from the IRS…there’s a lost life…decades wasted due to ineffective treatment and devastated friends and families.  Does Mercy Multiplied really think that it’s okay to place greater importance on their organization’s financial records or possible liability issues than the lives of those that they claim to be helping?  It just seems wrong on so many levels.

**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**

Let’s talk about priorities (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 9)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.

prioritiesThe next part of this section features Mercy Multiplied’s advice regarding the Human Resources department.

Their information on recruiting staff members has numerous reminders to be compliant with state and federal laws for employment and interviewing.  (Again, they’re all about compliance and accountability—unless we’re talking about their care and treatment of residents).  They also, of course have the normal common sense stuff mixed in with a lot of exhortation to pray and seek God’s guidance.

Here’s some advice that seems to speak specifically to their views on qualifications and training:

Heart Monitor—Degrees are great, but do not forget to do a heart check.  Sometimes the best candidate may have less credentials, experience or education, but have an incredibly teachable spirit, willingness to serve (servant’s heart), and strong Christian walk.” (p. 25)

First off, let’s make sure to notice that the only staff left this could be referring to here is the staff that interact with and help the residents.  Earlier, Mercy Multiplied’s already specifically advised for legal counsel to be qualified and experienced and for accountants to be certified and specialized–plus we know that Mercy Multiplied’s not talking about janitorial staff here because they have the residents do that work themselves.  It seems fair to assume that the only category of staff left that credentials would pertain to are the staff that care for the residents.

And here’s the thing–sometimes a less credentialed candidate might be perfect for a job, but there’s a huge difference between a less credentialed but fully qualified candidate and throwing the idea of credentials out the window entirely.  When I was at Mercy Multiplied, my first “counselor” had a bachelor’s degree, and THAT’S ALL.  So this “counselor” was in charge of helping about ten girls who were struggling with multiple mental illnesses and abuse issues, often including suicidal ideation and various forms of self-harm with issues an interfering with their life to the point that they signed up to spend at least 6 months in a residential facility. Now, we’re not talking about feeling a little blue here, right? Think about it, how bad would your life have to be going for you to pick up, quit everything for an indefinite amount of time, give up all of your individual freedom, and live in a house with 39 other people who were also willing to do this? This is not teenage girls asking for advice about their latest friendship drama…this is a place where they lock up the cleaning supplies to make sure no one drinks them in a suicide attempt.

This stuff is so serious that there are regulations PROHIBITING individuals without the proper training, education, qualifications, testing, and oversight from even attempting to help someone in this way.  Of course, the next question always is, how do they get away with it then?  1) They’re faith-based, 2) they don’t call it “treatment”, at least not anymore, and 3) nobody’s called them on their shit.  Now, let’s remember that if Mercy Multiplied were breaking the law with finances or employment (as we’ve seen them caution against repeatedly), nobody would accept “they’re Christian” as a reason for that to be okay.  But legally, it’s true, they can skirt the rules and regulations that are there to protect the residents that they are “called by God” to help, and they can do that because they’re “Christian”.  They aren’t, however, allowed to represent themselves or their services as something that they’re not.  Which is a little surprising because their application materials and advertisements aren’t telling people to come and listen to sermons and maybe talk to a prayer counselor every now and then.  They aren’t asking people to donate money so they can build a new house so they can pray the demons of mental illness out of more people.  An organization that prides itself on its financial accountability is skirting so close to being illegal in it’s self-representation that they have become more and more careful what words they use to describe their program the longer it has been established.

There’s admonitions to seek legal counsel on the questions you’re allowed to ask job applicants and reminders to make sure that the paper applications are compliant with state and federal laws.  It’s nice to know that Mercy Multiplied is at least consistent in the value they place upon qualifications and compliance regarding, well, everything except the treatment and care of residents.  They also tell readers to “openly discuss spiritual warfare, as in one’s ability to recognize it and take authority over it” (p. 25) when they are looking to fill job positions.  Regardless of one’s religious beliefs or spiritual practices, it’s quite clear that this is considered more important than actual credentials of staff.  Although, funny, they didn’t suggest checking out the lawyers this way…or the accountants…but I guess those people wouldn’t be helping those with demons, oops, I mean mental illnesses.

They also point out the importance of record keeping for employment records.  Unsurprisingly, they seem to be very keen on keeping detailed records for finances and employment, but as many residents will attest to, record keeping on residents (which in qualified mental health facilities meets or exceeds that which you’d see in a medical hospital) is painfully absent.  I know that when I tried to get back assignments and records from Mercy Multiplied shortly after my stay there, I was given a one paragraph discharge statement that basically said I was all better now.  There wasn’t any information about anything that I’d done during the months I’d been a resident or even what issues had been addressed.  Again, we can clearly see that Mercy Multiplied’s advice to keep detailed records for employment and finances doesn’t apply to the care and treatment of residents.  Mercy Multiplied prides itself on being above reproach in everything except what they say they are specifically called by God to do.

Now, Mercy Multiplied does tell readers to “identify state and federal licensing requirements…determine how these impact your ministry” and ensure compliance in order to maintain and retain such requirements.  It’s interesting again that Mercy Multiplied basically says make sure you’re not illegal here while they are admonishing thorough accountability in other areas.  There’s no mention of consulting professionals in the field of mental health care to determine what licensing you need or anything telling why it’s important to be licensed and certified to provide checks and balances for the care and treatment of residents, but in the following bullet point they tell readers about their need to have specific workers compensation insurance saying that “you will need to understand the intricacies of the coverage and how to manage possible workplace injuries in order to be a good steward of your ministry” (p. 27).  I’m not saying that this worker’s comp isn’t important, but does it seem odd to anyone else that making sure to understand the “intricacies” of worker’s comp insurance is seen as a requirement for being a good steward of the ministry, but seeking certification to ensure that standards of care are being met doesn’t even fit into the picture?  Wasn’t the ministry to help young women?  The way Mercy Multiplied talks about it, the ministry itself is the organization, its image and its successful fundraising, and helping young women is just a side project.

I would think that being a good steward of a ministry seeking to serve and help those with mental illnesses would probably mean having qualified staff and seeking appropriate professionals to ensure that residents are receiving the best possible treatment, but this seems to be less important than making sure that the organization has the best insurance coverage for workers compensation.  I guess, my definition of ministry stewardship and its focus on the people being ministered to is a very different definition than what Mercy Multiplied is using.  Or maybe it’s just a reflection of what Mercy Multiplied actually cares about, after all, we’re on page 27 of 41 and the only instructions or advice Mercy Multiplied offers to those wanting to open a residential counseling center about residents has been multiple recommendations to use resident testimonies for fundraising and that staff should be sure to judge applicants “willingness to change” so that they can be sure to exclude those who aren’t worthy of getting help, but hey, there’s still a few pages left, right?

**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**

Accountants and lawyers and boards (Oh my!) (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 8)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.

BoardSo we’re going to pick back up with Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines with the second portion of the “Operations” section, which if you remember from last time, again has nothing to do with the residents or the actual treatment or ministry, but focuses on (surprise, surprise!) the organization, its image, and finances. Now, lest I be misunderstood, I’m all for financial accountability such as that that Mercy Multiplied is recommending here with professionals from financial and legal backgrounds being consulted and independent audits, I just find it very hard to understand how an organization that would strongly recommend using professionals for these areas would completely eschew even basic consultation with professionals who are knowledgeable about the mental illnesses and issues that the residents themselves are dealing with—double standard anyone? Or is it just that the only people they see themselves accountable to are the donors?

Disclaimer aside, Mercy Multiplied talks about the importance of their Board of Directors and recommend selecting individuals that are “able to give Godly wisdom and counsel” and “will support and help fulfill the vision God has given your ministry” and other qualities such as willingness to serve the ministry and the vision and specific skill sets that are needed by the organization. Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, they don’t mention anything that has to do with making sure the organization’s Board of Directors are not all compensated directly or indirectly by the organization. The board of directors provide oversight and governance for the organization—thus it’s important that these members have the freedom to call the organization on actions without having any personal stake in the organizations’ practices.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance recommends that “Not more than one or 10% (whichever is greater) directly or indirectly compensated person(s) serving as voting member(s) of the board. Compensated members shall not serve as the board’s chair or treasurer.” (look here and scroll down to Standard 4). Unsurprisingly this is also the standard that Mercy Multiplied fails to meet. Of course, you should also remember that these standards are for charities in general and deal solely with financial accountability to donors—there’s no consideration obviously for the quality (or lack thereof) of the services the charity is offering.

If you’re interested in reporting Mercy Multiplied to the BBB through their easy online complaint form here.  Those complaints get forwarded to the organization and the organization is tasked with responding to those complaints as part of the BBB standards. I’ve reported them for failing to adhere to minimum standards in interactions with residents, failure to follow industry-wide standards of proper consent, privacy, and record keeping, misrepresenting their services through misleading appeals, failing to respond to complaints of maltreatment, and gross medical negligence. (You do NOT have to identify yourself as a former resident or parent, you can file the complaint simply as a concerned individual but anonymous complaints are not forwarded to the organization.) It’s not much really, but it does use official, accountable channels.

Anyways, since Mercy Multiplied’s Board of Directors currently has 2 of 9 members indirectly compensated by the ministry (one of which is the board treasurer…um, conflict of interest anyone??), it makes sense that they would ignore the importance of having non-compensated/non-related board members to maintain the checks and balances necessary for a ministry. For all their emphasis on financial accountability, they’re definitely missing the mark on this aspect.

How to create a monster (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 7)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her personal blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.

monsterI’ll have to admit that I was excited when I first came to the section in the manual that was titled Operations Fundamentals.  I naively expected this section to cover aspects of residents’  treatment that had been so sorely lacking in the content up until this point.  I was disappointed (but not surprised) to realize that the operations that they are referring to are not the operations of the residential counseling ministry, but rather the operations of the non-profit that runs it.  This section is over halfway through the manual, and readers haven’t heard anything about the residents that this entire manual is supposed to enable them to minister to.

I’ll also say right from the start that Mercy Multiplied specifically states that they are covering the concepts in this section on a “high level” stating the importance that readers “seek knowledgeable resources to address the specifics as they relate to your individual vision, mission, and actual legal requirements you will need to comply with.”  We see the foreshadowing of the disconnect between recommending professionals for aspects of the organization’s finances and legal decisions and the obvious eschewing of any professionalism with regard to the residents’ treatment or care.  Over and over again, the manual encourages legal counsel to be sought early and often and while they do encourage finding pro-bono or discounted services (because what Christian organization doesn’t feel entitled to having professionals do things for them for free), they don’t suggest that you get prayer ministers to do this work for them.  Even the pro-bono work is assumed to be coming from, professionals, i.e. lawyers and accountants.  In fact they not only recommend that these individuals be professionals (read: passed the certifications and requirements necessary to prove that they are knowledgeable and experienced in the areas they are advising in), but they even strongly encourage a “reputable attorney” with expertise in non-profits and a “reputable Certified Public Accountant”.  So not only do they expect their financial and legal information to come from experts trained and certified in their field, they’re even wanting to make sure that these individuals are especially good at what they do.

Now let’s just contrast this with Mercy Multiplied’s attitude concerning the expertise of their staff that are actually interacting with residents that have major mental illnesses and require round the clock 24/7 supervision.  This staff is not recommended to have any qualifications or certifications barring a general college degree.  This staff is not recommended to come with reputations of successfully treating individuals with specific struggles that are common to the residents.  It’s not even suggested that people consult with people who are qualified in psychology or mental illness.

What kind of priorities are reflected when an organization is requiring certified professionals for dealing with legal and financial issues to cover their rear legally, but has no requirements for individuals that will actually be caring for the individuals all of this is supposed to be about?  Better make sure you get someone experienced to deal with your organization’s operations because everyone knows how important that is, but anybody can care for the residents—what kind of a double standard is this?  What kind of message does this send to the residents about their worth?  Does Mercy Multiplied really think that recovery from illness with high fatalities is simpler than doing their taxes?  And the answer of course is, yes.  After all, taxes takes someone who knows what they’re doing…training, education, even experience, but recovery from mental illness is as simple as praying and memorizing Bible verses so why would you need anyone special to help residents with that?

Oh, and they even recommend having an independent auditor review financial practices yearly to provide accountability to donors.  And what kind of accountability checks are their for the treatment of residents?  (In case you’ve forgotten, the residents are the people that they are so keen on helping and ministering too…it’s hard to remember since most everything that is recommended has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the organizations’ image and potential donors).  So if you’re a donor, you get to make sure that your money is doing exactly what they said it would, but if you’re a resident you have no recourse if they fail to live up to the minimal expectations commonplace in treatment.  Think about it, what can residents do if they are abused by this organization?  There’s no professional ethics board when you don’t employ professionals to do your counseling.  There’s no certification to revoke when the complaints come pouring in when you don’t submit to any treatment guidelines or certifications.  There’s not even a way to show that their claims about “treatment” are even remotely true.  But that’s obviously not the important thing…because the important thing is that there’s accountability to the donors.  After all, they are the ones who are really running the organization, right?  They’re the ones that matter.

Along the lines of this same disconnect between how money is handled and how residents’ LIVES are handled, there’s plenty of encouragement to keep detailed and accurate records for the organization, but if you’ve seen any of the stories about residents attempting to get records from their time in the program, you’ll know that this sort of record keeping is not considered important.  Because, you can get in some serious trouble with the government for not keeping records on your organization’s tax-exemption, but who is there to get you in trouble if you’re not keeping treatment records?  In Mercy Multiplied’s set up there’s nobody, and for an organization that claims excellence in caring for these ‘poor souls gone astray’, there’s not really any evidence to back those claims up.  ‘Cause who would listen to a bunch of mentally ill young women anyways?  And what would it hurt the organization if those women aren’t satisfied with the treatment or care they get?  I mean, it’s not like they’re paying for it anyways…as long as the donors are happy the revenue stream is stable.  Nothing else matters…nothing…as long as the organization can maintain its public image and engender financial support, there’s not any way to hold the organization accountable for any of its actions with regard to the residents.  This is how Mercy Multiplied is set up.  This is how they recommend similar ministries to be set up.  The focus is not on the residents or the ministry as much as they want to make people think that it is, the ultimate priority is the organization, its leadership, and its financial backers.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you establish a residential counseling ministry that abuses the very people they are claiming to help.  This is the secret of Mercy Multiplied’s success that they are so eager to share with other people.  This is Mercy Multiplied sharing how to create a monster that looks just like them.

**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**

(More) fundraising… (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 6)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

Fundraising2A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.

As much as I’d like to get off the subject of fundraising, Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual seems to have more about fundraising than any other topic.  Raise your hand if you’re surprised about this…yeah, didn’t think so.  We have three more things to look at from this section: organizational ties, newsletter advice, and volunteer use.  The warnings on organizational ties seems to allude to an area of Mercy Multiplied’s history that they failed to cover in their personal historical overview.

“…be careful not to officially associate or partner your ministry with any other ministries, organizations, or people who would otherwise contradict, endanger, or create roadblocks in furthering your ministry’s God-given vision and mission…the best way to manage these networks and links is to connect via a written policy and procedure that includes standards set by your Board.”

While on the surface this seems innocent enough and rather common sense, I wonder how much of this actually comes from the ‘wisdom’ gleaned from Mercy Multiplied’s relationship with Mercy Ministries Australia, Hillsong Church and other organizations that they were connected with that they disowned when the abuse of the Australian homes was discovered and those associated ministries were shut down by the Australian government.  Remember in their history lesson earlier in the manual, all the Mercy Ministries homes were proudly listed as being outgrowths of the US ministry, except Australia.  Mercy Multiplied’s desperate attempts to sever ties with Mercy Ministries Australia after former residents of the homes in Australia were courageous enough to share their stories of abuse and misuse, is a well-known part of Mercy Multiplied’s storyline.  Mercy Multiplied’s public image has been plagued by their association (or attempt not to be associated) with Mercy Ministries Australia and other organizations that were supportive of their (now unclaimed) work in that country.  With this historical context, it’s not hard to imagine that Mercy Multiplied would offer advice to others that would encourage very careful associations and partnerships.  After all, didn’t Mercy Multiplied specifically say that this was information that was gleaned from their vast experience?  The experience of having to disown Mercy Ministries Australia and to paint former associatives from there as “renegade” organizations not connected to Mercy Multiplied had to have been quite a learning experience.  They say that hindsight is 20/20…people learn to cover their asses based on theirs and others’ experiences.  This section could be read as a what we wish we’d done prior to Australia blowing up in our public faces advice, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

They recommend a newsletter as a great fundraising tool…of course they recommend that you use pictures, resident testimonies, and success stories without any concern voiced for the residents’ privacy or consent as was discussed earlier.  They warn future fundraisers to have “direct oversight over the newsletter” in order to maintain control over the “voice” of the newsletter’s writing.  Again, this seems quite innocuous if you were to look at it outside the context of Mercy Multiplied’s history and behavior, but remember what information they are recommending be front and center in the newsletter:  residents’ stories.  Couple this with knowledge that Mercy Multiplied has a history of specifically telling residents what their stories should say, and you have to wonder if they’re really just advising control over the narratives that former residents share.  Mercy Multiplied has repeatedly targeted former residents who share stories that do not conform to their chosen narrative and are even known to take down a residents’ “success story” from their website if they discover that the resident is in any way questioning their Mercy Multiplied experience.  There’s a gray area obscuring the point where oversight and control becomes censorship and propaganda, but there is definite reason to think that Mercy Multiplied has reached past the common sense areas and into the extreme.

Lastly, they give advice for volunteer use.  Again, most of this is pretty benign, but it’s concerning that they seem to lump volunteers with access to residents and volunteers at fundraising and awareness events into the same category.  Now, they do offer this caution even though it’s not necessarily specific to volunteering with access to residents.  “Because of the times and the nature of residential counseling programs, we suggest you carefully screen all volunteer applicants.  Require applicants for volunteering to fill out an extensive application, write out their testimony, and give three letters of reference, perhaps including one from their pastor.”  They don’t suggest that maybe background checks be performed or at least the barring of individuals with sex offender histories.  Do they think that filling out an “extensive” application, writing out a “testimony”, and getting a reference letter from a pastor is guaranteed to weed any such individuals out?  Because you know, churches and pastors have never been known to cover up abuse or take the side of abusers…<sigh>.  They also encourage volunteers as a possible way to consider additional staffing needs in the future.  Since we already know that about the professional education or training of their staff it should come as no surprise that they recommend building a staff based not on industry-standard qualifications and requirements, but rather from getting to know a volunteers “heart from a deeper perspective.

**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**

%d bloggers like this: