Untold Story of Heartbreak and Victory
Substance abuse among family members is hurling more children into foster care.
“It’s an untold story and crisis,” says Jay Mooney, executive director of COMPACT Family Services, formerly known as Assemblies of God Family Services Agency in Hot Springs, Arkansas. There are 415,000 children nationwide living in foster care, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In Arkansas, 52 percent of the 4,600 children placed foster care in 2014 were there because of substance abuse problems in the home reports the state’s Department of Human Services. The troubling situation is aggravated further by the growing abuse of methamphetamines, a serious problem in rural Arkansas. Known as chrystal meth, speed, ice or glass, the drug is highly addictive and can incite uncontrollable violent and bizarre behaviors among users.
Maltreatment of children in abusive families fueled by drugs and alcohol has reached the critical stage. Even deaths have occurred. Responding to this growing crisis, state officials have asked COMPACT to add new programs to help hurting children.
COMPACT operates as a full-service child welfare agency licensed by the state of Arkansas. It has reached out to infants through teenagers since 1944. Today COMPACT ministers from a 65-acre campus. Onsite facilities and programs include the Hillcrest Children’s Home, Highlands Maternity Home, the Murry Transitional Living Center, residential treatment, respite care, foster and therapeutic care, and clinical support. More than 60 young people live on campus.
Answering the surging demand for emergency care, COMPACT launched the Respite Center in July 2015, according to Paula J. Hall, a licensed professional counselor and senior director of social services. The center’s original state contract called for providing 1,600 bed nights annually, a figure that has since doubled. Children range from preschoolers through high school age.
“We serve children and young people who have no place to go after being removed from homes because of abuse or neglect,” Hall says. “We are called by God to take on their plight.”
The first admission involved a late night call about a traumatized 12-year-old girl. The youngster now lives in the Hillcrest Children’s Home. In a similar situation, two sisters, ages 4 and 6, arrived directly from a hospital emergency room. Malnourished and infested with lice and scabies, the girls had been victims of alleged sexual abuse contributed by meth addiction in their home. COMPACT eventually placed them with a responsible Christian foster care family.
Residential therapeutic care is another vital COMPACT program. Professional staff minister to youngsters suffering from serious psychological and social problems. For example, some teenagers have experienced as many as 21 foster-home placements before COMPACT. One 9-year-old even endured 27 placements in two years. Rejected and unable to cope, they exhibit tantrums, aggressive behavior, anger, fear, and learning disabilities.
Savannah Moore represents a wonderful faith-building victory for COMPACT’s more typical foster care. She arrived 11 years ago placed under a court order from the Arkansas DHS. She recalls feeling scared and betrayed initially by her family. Staff members showed her love and compassion. She lived at Hillcrest Children’s Home before moving to the Transitional Living Center. After graduating from high school in June, she plans on pursuing premedical studies at college. Her goal is helping children as a pediatrician.
“Jesus has been with me through every struggle,” she says. “He takes me one step at a time and has guides my way.”
Mooney wants COMPACT to partner more with AG congregations nationwide. While as many as 50 children from the Hot Springs campus attend First Assembly of God, other churches can sponsor short-term mission trips, camps, and support individual children at $30 a month. To this end, COMPACT has appointed former Assemblies of God Theological Seminary professor Johan Mostert as the agency’s new director of family and community resources. He will direct strategies to better assist and mobilize local churches and Assemblies of God districts to more adequately redeem and serve vulnerable children and families.
Mooney and his dedicated staff are committed to saving at-risk youngsters.
“We are in a spiritual battle and need support and prayer from the greater Assemblies of God family,” he pleads. “We also want to encourage local churches to minister to hurting families among their congregations and the surrounding community.”