In 1978, Rev. Coyd Taggart, Executive Director of the Lake Bluff/Chicago Homes for Children (later named ChildServ and recently Kids Above All), enlisted the help of Executive Directors and Boards from the four Northern Illinois Conference (NIC)-affiliated child-serving agencies and the NIC Board of Health & Welfare Ministries for the purpose of creating a new organization whose mission was two-fold: a) to be an advocate for children, youth, and families in need; and b) to foster financial support from local NIC congregations for the four child-serving agencies through the establishment of a 5th Sunday Appeal program in local congregations.
From his years of experience as a United Methodist pastor and a children’s home administrator, Rev. Taggart believed this new organization, called UNITED VOICES FOR CHILDREN, provided a unique way to effectively connect all four agencies with local congregations in being an advocate for those children and families who lacked any kind of “voice.” Taggart felt this reflected the social vision and ministry of John Wesley (founder of United Methodism) to the poor and neglected families of his day. At the 1979 Annual Conference, United Voices for Children (UVC) was officially recognized as an affiliated organization of the Northern Illinois Conference.
To carry out this mission, UVC asked local congregations to: (1) participate in the 5th Sunday Appeal (collected each 5th Sunday four times annually), and (2) appoint at least one member from the congregation at the Annual Charge Conference to be the designated Child Advocate. This activity was officially supported in a resolution passed most recently at the 2001 NIC Annual Conference.
In a span of 38 years, UVC has raised over one million dollars through the 5th Sunday Appeal, fostered closer cooperation among the four agencies in their connections with the Northern Illinois Conference, provided advocacy information to local congregations, organized rallies in Chicago and Springfield around public policy issues, and has worked with Voices for Illinois Children and other advocacy groups on common issues affecting children, youth, and families. During the eight-year Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty, UVC partnered with the NIC Bishop’s Committee in hosting several conference-wide meetings lifting up the needs of children and those families in poverty.
The role of UVC is different from many other organizations in that it provides no services for its own sake, but serves as a catalyst, generating support for the Northern Illinois child-serving agencies and enlisting members in congregations to become advocates, trained to speak on behalf of children and their families in their communities. UVC is also a conduit through which information and resources can flow back and forth between congregations and the child-serving agencies, generating ideas for new ministries and ways that local congregations can collaborate with the agencies in implementing their services to their constituents.
One of the four Northern Illinois agencies, Marcy-Newberry Association, closed in 2013 after 130 years of service to needy children and families in Chicago. The other three agencies—Kids Above All (formerly ChildServ), MYSI, and Rosecrance—designate a representative to the UVC board of directors and participate actively in the UVC coalition.