Connector. Risk Taker. Change Agent. Jim Mason’s Remarkable Journey and Impact
Connector. Risk Taker. Change Agent. Jim Mason’s Remarkable Journey and Impact
Over his remarkable 42-year career at Beech Acres Parenting Center, James R. Mason has led our 172-year-old organization through an incredible evolution of purpose and programs focused on strengthening families so children could achieve their unique potential.
Anticipating modern society’s complex and rapid changes, Jim has purposefully led the former General Protestant Orphan Home through its evolution from a 19th- century orphanage to the 21st-century parenting center it is today. Jim’s singular vision led to helping thousands of parents meet the challenges of raising children today AND the creation, development, and implementation of Natural Strength Parenting™, our unique approach to parenting, upon which all of our family-focused programs are based.
Jim joined Beech Acres as Assistant Director, Child Care in 1978. At that time, Jim was responsible for the planning and administration of daily operations in what was then a residential treatment center. In this scenario, Jim looked, as he always has, at the adults in a child’s life, the caretakers at Beech Acres, and how they could positively impact a child’s growth and development. To develop these caretakers to provide the best possible care for the children living here, Jim developed and implemented Beech Acres’ Training Program shortly after his arrival and became Director, Training in 1980.
As divorce rates soared in the 1980s, the profound impact of the changing structure of the family unit dominated headlines. Jim sensed the changing needs of parents, families, and kids in the community and provided inspired leadership in founding The Aring Institute, which offered essential services to divorcing and remarried families and their children. Under Jim’s leadership as Director, The Aring Institute grew to a staff of 12, serving over 5,000 children, families, and professionals. By 1986, The Aring Institute was recognized as one of the country’s most comprehensive service centers for children and families experiencing the stress of divorce and remarriage.
In the late 1980s, Jim’s uncanny ability to anticipate the ever-changing needs of parents, families, and kids led him to advocate fiercely among Beech Acres’ staff and the Board of Directors about the benefits of creating preventive services for families. Jim believed that prevention rather than reaction was the best way to build stronger families. This belief and this advocacy became the first seeds of Intentional, Strength-based, Mindful Practice, which would eventually grow into Natural Strength Parenting™.
As a result of Jim’s vision of the future, changes in the community around social services, and a new approach to fundraising, Beech Acres held its final Orphan Feast in 1986, ending a 137-year fundraising tradition in the community. This signaled the biggest evolution in the organization’s history, as we transitioned from serving kids on-site to serving the wider community through a range of ever-evolving services designed to meet the needs of modern parents.
By 1989 Beech Acres shuttered its final residential cottage and James R. Mason was named President & CEO.
During the 1990s, Jim’s leadership as President & CEO grew Beech Acres’ reputation in the community by establishing partnerships and creating coalitions designed to support families in the community. These included:
• The Emergency Therapeutic Foster Care program, which provided a safe, short-term environment for children to heal from an immediate crisis
• Care Management, a component of Hamilton County’s new managed care initiative with Family & Children First Management, Inc.
• Creative Connections, a collaboration with Lighthouse Youth Services to manage the care of the most troubled children in the county
By 1998 Jim Mason’s Beech Acres had become a driving force in preventive and restorative services for families in the community. Jim provided collaborative leadership that led to the co-creation of Every Child Succeeds® with Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Community Action Agency, and the United Way. The following year saw the debut of For the Love of Kids®, a Beech Acres Conference for Practical Parenting.
In 2001 Beech Acres was reaccredited by the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services (COA), having met the highest national standards and delivered the best quality services to the Greater Cincinnati area under Jim Mason’s leadership.
The 2000’s saw further partnership development, evolution, transition and recognition for Beech Acres, including:
• Receiving the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics
• Establishment of MyParentSource.com to provide parents with one-on-one help from professional parent coaches
• Expansion of mental health services into the westside at our new Glenmore location and into Warren and Clinton Counties
• Creation of Parent Education Program (PEP) with Hamilton County Job and Family Services
• Establishing our first school-based mental health services, a precursor to Beyond the ClassroomTM
In 2010 to better reflect Jim Mason’s belief that the best way to serve children is through their parents, the organization changed its name to Beech Acres Parenting Center.
In 2017, after decades of test and learn, Jim’s vision of parenting became embedded in Beech Acres’ DNA and all program areas with the establishment of
Natural Strength Parenting™. Natural Strength Parenting™ encourages parents to be intentional in their approach to parenting, to be mindful and “in the moment” when spending time with their children, and to identify and cultivate their children’s unique strengths in order to unlock their potential, build resiliency and become capable, caring, and contributing citizens.
In 2019, Jim navigated the organization through a major reorganization which saw Beech Acres move from 18 to 8 programs. This reorganization shifted the focus of the organization to meet parents and children where they were; in schools, pediatric offices, and the community.
With this streamlined service delivery, Beech Acres is achieving greater impact on the lives of parents and children, which has led to solid investments in schools, pediatric practices, and child welfare. The highly committed and talented team of Beech Acres staff now makes a positive impact on more than 14,000 children, caregivers, teachers, health care providers and children in Southwest Ohio each year. For 8 years running, Beech Acres has been selected by The Cincinnati Enquirer as one of Cincinnati’s Top Places to Work, including a 2020 #1 ranking in the Meaningful Work category.
Jim has also worked with other community leaders to create numerous local, state, and national coalitions designed to improve service quality for vulnerable children and their families. His leadership in the community and state of Ohio has been recognized by several groups, including the Ohio Children’s Alliance, PreventionFIRST, NAMI Southwest Ohio, and Vistage International’s CEO Lifetime Achievement Award.
One of Jim’s final contributions to the legacy of Beech Acres Parenting Center is the establishment of the agency’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic priority. This initiative will be a major agency focus for the next several years. The overarching goal is to develop and execute an anti-racism strategy for those Beech Acres serves, the systems affecting them, and within Beech Acres itself.
Jim Mason committed his professional life to a simple, but challenging purpose – strengthening families so children can achieve their unique potential. Thank you, Jim, for recognizing the individual strengths in every parent and every child and for your relentless pursuit of pushing the community and the world forward toward a brighter and more hopeful future.
Our team looks forward to celebrating Jim’s legacy and career on June 14th with food, fun and a photo booth from Say Cheese!