Walking the Talk: United Church Homes earns Platinum Certification in SAGECare, Competency Training for Serving Older LGBTQ Community

For United Church Homes, its recent Platinum Certification in SAGECare — a cultural competency training program for organizations serving older adults — is all part of its larger vision and mission of creating abundant life in community.

In 2012, the UCH Board of Directors voted to become Open and Affirming, a designation within the United Church of Christ  that encourages the welcoming of members in the LGBTQ community. The O&A vote “came from our theological understanding of caring for the whole person, but the Board also saw this as a justice issue,” says the Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel, president and CEO. “The LGBTQ community often is not afforded the same rights to equal treatment to access, healthcare, housing or employment. United Church Homes is intentional in its actions to combat this and other forms of discrimination.”

The aim of SAGECare certification is to create a more welcoming community for LGBTQ older adults. According to Tim Johnston, director of national projects at SAGECare, more than 28,300 people have been trained since SAGECare was founded in 1978. Currently, there are almost 300 credentialed providers in 45 states.

“When a potential resident sees the SAGECare credential, it tells them that your community cares enough about inclusion to devote time and resources to training, and that they can expect staff to treat them and their family with respect,” says Johnston.

To earn its platinum credential, 80 percent of UCH employees and executive/administrators completed a specific training process in 2017. Ongoing training also is a commitment United Church Homes has made for the future.

“Attaining the platinum level of SAGECare certification puts the exclamation point on our stated values,” says Daniel. “We made the commitment to become LGBTQ-affirming in 2012. We have lived out that commitment through training of our staff.”

SAGECare is a division of SAGE, the largest and oldest organization in the United States dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ older adults. Johnston says the SAGE provides consulting and technical assistance to older adult communities.

“We can conduct a full audit of [a community’s] policies, advertising, website, and programming to ensure that they send a welcoming message to LGBTQ older adults and their families,” Johnston says.

Parker Center Benefits from SAGECare

The platinum certification also has helped UCH’s Ruth Parker Center for Abundant Aging in its work. The center “builds relationships with organizations in the community who help us to fulfill our vision and mission,” says the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, center director. “SAGE  … has not only helped to equip our staff for being sensitive to the needs of aging LGBTQ adults, but it also has helped to strengthen other partnerships as we seek to increase our commitment to serving this community.”

Particularly during today’s oft-times perceived dominance of the religious landscape by more conservative voices, the partnership between SAGE and progressive religious voices is increasingly important.

“SAGE is very troubled by the way that Religious Freedom Restoration Act-style legislation may be used to permit discrimination against LGBTQ older adults,” says Johnston. “It is essential that religious people describe how treating LGBTQ people with respect aligns with their faith.”

‘Always More Work to be Done’

As the late Ruth Frost Parker — Parker Center namesake and United Church Homes’ most generous benefactor — often said, “There is always more work to be done.” Platinum SAGECare certification is just one more tangible way the UCC organization is “bending the curve of history toward justice while we shoulder the mandate of Christ to go out and serve,” says Daniel.

“At United Church Homes, we continue to foster community, wholeness and peace within all those we serve, thereby creating the conditions that lead to a more just society,” Daniel adds. “Our staff across the country are committed to provide safe and dignified treatment of our LGBTQ residents because it’s the right thing to do. SAGECare certification shows that UCH walks the talk when it comes to providing equal access to care, service, and housing for the LGBTQ community.”

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