The family unit is the primary tool by which God seeks to accomplish his purposes on this earth. It is God’s built-in support system for life. It shapes our identity and who we become. It is our living example of how to connect with God the Father.
The Bible teaches us that God is a father to the fatherless. This is good news in our country as 60% of children are now growing up fatherless (The Boy Crisis, Farrell, 2018). Astonishing right? It’s going to take a long time to dig out of this fatherless pit. But, God is a good God, a good father, and we can trust him.
The vision of Cookson Hills is to raise up “healthy individuals empowered to positively impact future generations.” In a perfect world this would happen 100% of the time within a child’s biological family. We believe the family unit is the best place, God’s preferred place, for kids to be raised. But when a family unit gets disrupted, we at Cookson Hills are here, ready to serve those struggling with the unique challenges of growing up in today’s world.
Since taking a leadership role at Cookson Hills 4 years ago, my main obsession has been to ensure this ministry is able to continue serving for the next 50+ years. I, and our leadership team, continually review our model, services, processes, practices, and making adjustments that ensure we are positioned to serve those in need, both now and in the future.
During an in-depth evaluation of our services, we identified a significant failure in the effectiveness of our short-term track. This program was designed for students whose families were interested in reuniting after 2 years of progress at Cookson Hills. However, over the last 6 years, 54% of the kids on this track were dismissed in 12 months or less. We believe that we need at least 2 years with a child to bear lasting fruit. Because of this, we have eliminated the short-term track from our program. While we still encourage families to work towards reunification, each kid placed at Cookson Hills is on a track to graduate from high school. We are confident this will allow us to provide more consistent, intentional, and quality care for all kids at Cookson Hills.
This past year, we completed many big-picture goals and accomplishments that will support Cookson Hills well over the next 50+ years. We raised the final $1.02 million needed to complete the Building on a Legacy of Love building project. This project has been an ongoing fundraising challenge, so we are ecstatic that God has provided for these needs. These funds will allow us to finish the remaining construction of three childcare homes and supporting infrastructure.
Another major accomplishment of 2018 was our 5 year accreditation renewal with Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). This honor is a testament to our school system and the wonderful teachers, staff and faculty who provide this service to our kids each day. The accreditation team made a special note of our school: “Leadership establishes a climate of openness, support, trust, and encouragement leading to greater collaboration, effectiveness, missional alignment, and continual improvement.” While there are many vital components to the ministry of Cookson Hills, I believe our school is the secret sauce.
Continuing with my main objective of setting Cookson Hills up well for the next 50+ years, our final 2018 accomplishment was the creation of a 5 year strategic plan. We took a step back to observe where we are as an organization and to dream about where we need to be. Written by our Board of Directors and Leadership Team, this plan gives direction to 4 primary areas of the ministry including enhancing programs, strengthening finances, increasing employee tenure, and offering professional trainings. We look forward to the challenge and creativity required to accomplish these goals over the next 5 years.
As we journey into 2019, our three primary “50+ years” goals are to:
Thank you for taking time to reflect on this past year with us. Additionally, thank you for your partnership. This ministry simply isn’t possible without your covering of prayer and financial support. Thank you for helping kids who are at risk write a better story.
Heath A. Hostetler