On Friday, September 22, 1944, under the inspired leadership of Gladys Hinson, National Children’s Home of the Assemblies of God opened to redeem homeless, neglected, orphaned, maltreated or otherwise vulnerable foster children and youth. That bold beginning, in Hot Springs, AR, has become a sizeable, Christ-centered, licensed and accredited child welfare agency.
This ministry fittingly began in the heart of a thirteen-year-old girl. As just a young teen, Gladys Hinson was inspired to open an orphan care ministry somewhere someday. During her college years she surrendered her heart to God’s call to be an Assemblies of God missionary in China. She believed China would be the place of her ministry dream. In 1941, as she prepared her plans to depart there in mission, the disaster at Pearl Harbor struck and missionaries were not permitted to enter that land. God turned her impassioned dreams toward the orphan need in America. Her relentless pursuit launched a growing work spanning seven decades.
Today it is known as COMPACT Family Services to highlight the active compassion ministry work to which it has long been dedicated. The agency’s primary campus is located at 2325 Malvern Avenue in Hot Springs, AR. It spans 52 acres of property with 24 buildings and multiple programs of service.
Thousands of families have been reached. The vision and work have grown as the need has grown.
Milton Davis was three years old when he came to Hillcrest. He and his two brothers were the first children in the home. Gladys Hinson regularly taught the children about Jesus and his love for them. One day, Milton said it was his day to go to the front steps to pick up the milk at the bottom of the steps. As he reached down, he heard a cry coming from a box. When he opened the box, he saw a newborn girl inside…crying. He took the box to Ms. Hinson. Together they named her Sharon Rose, after the ‘Rose of Sharon’ found in the Bible.
Little Sharon would later be adopted. Little did Milton know that 64 years later, he would have the privilege of sharing how she was found and gained her beautiful name. Never underestimate the impact of a single effort of mercy. It gives and gives.
National Children’s Home of the Assemblies of God began as a five-room single dwelling home with three small children. Within three months, the home increased to seventeen children and operated by using the garage apartment behind the home to house some of the children. To meet the growing need for additional housing, a request was sent out through the Assemblies of God fellowship of churches for assistance. In March of 1945 funds were provided to purchase an adjacent home with 2.5 acres of property. It was referred to as the Oklahoma Unit and later as the Gotcher Cottage to house girls for the Home.
In the same year, the capacity of the second home was met and a new, two-story brick facility was planned. It would serve as a dormitory and dining hall for a number of years.
In 1951, seven additional acres of land was purchased to expand the garden and farming land for the home.
As the work grew, the need for staff housing increased. An additional cottage, named Hardcastle, was built in 1952. Although used initially for staff, it transitioned to house teen residents.
In time, a new Hardcastle home was raised. It currently serves as a home for teen girls.
In the same year the original barn was built to serve two purposes. The lower level was used as a dairy for the home’s herd and the upper level was a gym where the kids could play even on rainy days. In 1987, the barn was remodeled to house a laundry facility and a woodshop. It is still used today as a maintenance woodshop and workshop. The lower level is a storage and repair facility for tractors, mowers, vehicles and equipment.
As the program grew, so did the need for more housing for referred children. In 1958, the Burris Cottage was purchased along with its 4-acre tract of land. It was first used as a foster home for preschool boys and girls. Today, it serves as staff housing.
The original Garrison Cottage was built in 1960 as a home for teen boys. It was later leveled, and a new Garrison Cottage was raised in 1998. The home currently serves girls.
In 1971 plans were drawn to construct a two-story housing facility. Construction began in 1973 and upon completion the 13,556 square foot building was named the Anderson Cottages I & II. It was originally used to house elementary boys. The facility was renovated in 2006 for the relocated Highlands Maternity Home and Life Center program when it moved to Hillcrest from Kansas City, MO. Highlands is now located in a newer home on campus. Today, the Anderson Cottages provide homes for two large sibling groups until permanency can be established for them either through reunification with family or through adoption.
In 1991, the Gotcher Cottage no longer met agency standards, so plans were drawn up to construct two new cottages; one to replace the old cottage, and a second home to meet the need of increasing referrals. The first was constructed that same year and identified as the Anthony Cottage. By September of 1992, resources provided for construction of the second home, named as the Netzel Cottage. These cottages have been improved and renovated in recent years. The cottages serve young and teen boys respectively.
In 2008, two additional cottages were approved for construction and they were completed. Today, the Wilmoth Cottage is a Highlands Maternity Home for minor girls and their babies. The Gilliam Cottage was recently assigned to provide a home for traumatized autistic foster children beginning the fall of 2019.
Today there are eight cottage homes comprising Hillcrest Children’s Home. In order of completion date they are – Garrison, Hardcastle, Anderson I, Anderson II, Netzel, Anthony, Wilmoth, and Gilliam. Each cottage is licensed to house five to eight residents, depending on program of need.
In 1965 a beautiful worship chapel was raised on campus overlooking a pond. The chapel serves regular resident gatherings, special services, holiday gatherings, trainings, and staff services. There is a two-bedroom staff apartment beneath the chapel. The facility was greatly updated, while maintaining its classic chapel design, in the summer of 2014. Upgrades in furniture, fixtures, sound and video technology gave the facility a vibrant new life.
The current campus includes other buildings serving lifestyle, recreational, and professional provision. In 1978 the Doyle Burgess gymnasium was constructed for activities such as basketball and volleyball. It also features an indoor pool. In 2018, a wonderful renovation was completed through a gift by Ms. Edwardene Johnson in honor of her parents, Edward & Bonnie Swain, to insure the value of this facility for another generation of deserving children and youth. The Warehouse Store is located in this facility. The free store provides new clothing, footwear, toys, toiletries, and other amenities of need for residents.
The 5,900 square foot Emanuel E. Murry Dining Hall and Food Services facility was dedicated in 1982. The facility has a professional kitchen and dining hall for large gatherings and meals with a cozy fireplace. There is a large food warehouse for refrigerated, frozen, and other goods. Originally the dining facility provided most daily meals on campus. Today, most meals are served family-style in the resident homes. Yet, for a few meals each week, and more often during summer months, the dining hall is alive with community, family, and friends. The hall has been improved with new flooring, stainless steel furnishings, HVAC and more over the past five years.
In 1998, the new 24,800 square foot, three-story James Bridges Ministry Center was erected on the front of the property. The lower level provides outstanding clinical services for physical health and social programs, including professional offices and meeting space. The second level serves as the welcoming lobby from the main parking lot and houses primary administrative offices and a large conference room. The top level provides eight apartments for resident staff and guests. In 2016 a new commercial quality roof was installed, and other improvements were made through the generous gifts of individuals, churches and districts.
A Fine Arts Building was established in 1999 to serve as a place for kids to participate in various activities such as music, art/crafts, tutoring, library, and computer lab. It is housed in one of the original buildings. The same facility served as administrative offices until construction of the Bridges Center. The arts have been moved to homes and the gymnasium facility. The building has been renovated and serves as the on-campus counseling center to bring mental health and healing to residents. A fitting brick pavilion with fireplace was erected in 2009. The pavilion accommodates picnics, parties and other gatherings for residents.
The Murry Transitional Living Center was constructed in 2011. This 18,000 square foot facility is home to the Transitional Living Center (TLC) program that provides transitional living, learning, and career development for students emancipating (aging out) from Hillcrest Children’s Home, Highlands Maternity Home and foster care. It is an outstanding apartment lifestyle to assist emerging foster youth an opportunity to obtain a fitting program of education, training and skill development aiding them toward independent adulthood.
In the summer of 2013, an irrigated and sodded multi-purpose ball field was constructed in honor of the deceased Georgia Belin, LCSW, who served the agency as director of social services. Belin Field is available for soccer, softball, and other outdoor sports.
Adjacent to the field is the functioning animal barn, which is home to docile cattle aiding the ministry.
Current renovations are underway of the original campus administrator’s home as the future office of COMPACT’s growing Arkansas foster care services. It will be known as the Newby Foster Care Center, in honor of longstanding board member, Rev. Bill Newby of Kansas City, Missouri.
Historically the agency has provided for residential group homes, maternity, adoption, foster care, independent living, and therapy services.
The initial program was a children’s home originally named, The National Children’s Home of the Assemblies of God. In 1960 the home was renamed as Hillcrest Children’s Home. Hillcrest was established to serve the needs of children who generally would return to their families after their time at the home. Although many children have been adopted through the years via its relationship with Highlands Child Placement Center.
Early on some adoptable children moved from Hillcrest Children’s Home to Highlands Child Placement Center in Kansas City, Missouri to find adoptive families. The Highlands program operated in Missouri until 2006 when it relocated to the Hillcrest campus. Highlands Maternity Home for Minors continues at Hillcrest and provides ministry to pregnant unwed teens and their babies in need.
Both the Hillcrest and Highlands ministries operated under the direction of the Benevolence Department of the Assemblies of God based in Springfield, MO until 2005. A decision was then made to consolidate the programs under a new 501c3 non-profit corporation to be located on the existing Hillcrest campus in Hot Springs, AR. By 2006 the new parent corporation for Hillcrest and Highlands was established as Assemblies of God Family Services Agency (AGFSA) Inc.
During the summer of 2013, AGFSA rebranded under a new d/b/a (“doing business as”), COMPACT Family Services, to highlight and advance its work of compassionate action to redeem vulnerable children and families to the glory of God. The ministry is thus legally known as Assemblies of God Family Services Inc., d/b/a COMPACT Family Services. Hillcrest and Highlands are ministries of the agency. The COMPACT brand provides a distinctive memorable mark for the cause.
The 75-year history of this ministry, which began as National Children’s Home of the Assemblies of God (later named Hillcrest Children’s Home), has a great history and is ripe for much more. In 1966, Highlands Maternity Home and Child Placement Services of the Assemblies of God joined the cause. In 2006, both ministries converged under a new nonprofit national affiliate of the General Council of the Assemblies of God known as Assemblies of God Family Services Inc., d/b/a COMPACT Family Services. Since that time, approximately 9,000 children and families have been served resulting in more than 3,000 adoptions.
Since 2012, the ministry has been on a transformative journey as AGFSA, d/b/a COMPACT toward the fulfillment of its commissioned purpose providing residential and community-based professional Christian family services. That same year, the agency invested in a national landscape study of Assemblies of God church readiness to meet the American foster care crisis. Among the many findings of that first of its kind study, was 47% of the pastors saying that they would make foster care support a top three priority for their church if they “knew what to do” and “how to do it.” COMPACT was once again confronted to fulfill its commission as a national, not just regional, ministry.
By July 2015, the agency established a Residential Treatment program to minister healing and hope to some of the more vulnerable children in this world.
Recent trends and forces in American culture and child welfare laws have challenged this agency, as it has all agencies, both private and public. The agency made a commitment to exceed and lead a world class professional work while simultaneously holding to its Christ-centered programming and cause. To broaden its valuable experience and better serve the national crisis in child welfare through church education, competency, and empowerment, the agency published in manual forms its evidence-based compassion care system known as CompaCare. There is a System Manual, Family Advocate Manual, and a Volunteer Manual. Utilizing evidence-based data and veteran expertise, the system was introduced in August 2017 at the General Council in Anaheim, CA.
CompaCare improves capacity, stability and quality for a foster care system in widespread crisis across the nation. The goal is to mobilize thousands of Assemblies of God and other embracing churches with CompaCare to meet, reach, and serve the generational challenge of family brokenness and suffering in America. Statistically in keeping with Scripture and data, the Assemblies of God churches alone should be ministering to approximately 20,000 foster children in America daily. CompaCare is the strategic way. Over a hundred leaders in sixteen states have been trained to date.
CompaCare has been a faith venture founded from our core mission and vision. Since the fall of 2016, we’ve invested over $400,000 in its development including staff, consultancy, research, meetings and materials. It was the right venture. It has the potential for industry research projects that could extend its value in more ways than first imagined. Importantly, CompaCare is owned by COMPACT and can be mobilized at its discretion for ministry to vulnerable children and families for years to come. We can share it with partnering churches, districts and others at will. There is a national deployment plan, and the agency is seeking to fund it forward. America is facing a family brokenness crisis of unprecedented proportion. CompaCare can be a vital track to help redeem it.
In 2017, the agency extended its continuum of ministry as a Private Licensed Placement Agency (PLPA) for foster care in Arkansas; as one of three agencies awarded as a first public/private agency venture for foster care in the state. We first plant CompaCare in a partnering church, then recruit foster families within, and then placements are made. The result is better outcomes with faster permanency. The program is succeeding and expanding.
In February 2018 the federal government passed the most significant child welfare legislation in 50 years. It is called the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). It affects every child welfare provider. In short, FFPSA is driving toward foster care homes, except for the most traumatized or unique in need. Effective October 1, 2019 no child in the federally partnered American Foster Care System under the age of thirteen will be allowed to live in group homes unless they are living with their numerous siblings or they are pregnant. They are to be placed in community-based foster homes. So, states and licensed agencies are scurrying to comply. If states do not comply, they suffer the loss of the matching federal child welfare funds that their programs depend upon. Agencies that have traditionally provided group homes for children and youth referred through the American foster care system must change or cease existence. Almost every group home in America has been serving children and youth in the foster care community. For example, in 1944 the first three placements at National Children’s Home of the Assemblies of God (Hillcrest Children’s Home) came from a court referral in the foster care system. Fortunately, the leadership of COMPACT foresaw the impending change as far back as 2013. In recognition of the impending trends and forces of change, COMPACT began wise preparations in advance such as national accreditation.
Only those youth thirteen to seventeen years of age who have suffered more trauma are eligible for placement in residential settings that are nationally accredited as a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP).
In 2018, the agency developed and piloted a new kinship navigator instrument named F.I.N.D. (Families, Individuals, Neighbors, and Devotees). FIND identifies blood and non-blood relatives and resources so that children removed from maltreated homes may find kinship care rather than foster care. The statistics on FIND are encouraging. The state of Arkansas asked COMPACT to pilot this kinship navigator service in Arkansas. The results are proof FIND works. For example, kids who have been spiraling through dozens of foster placements for years on end, are finding kinship family reunification via COMPACT FIND.
Last year the leadership of COMPACT engaged in strategic planning with the StratOp resource developed by The Paterson Center. StratOp is recognized as a leading resource among institutions, businesses, and non-profits for strategic planning. We engaged mulitiple phases of StratOp that produced an overall plan, including a better CompaCare plan.
The emergent combination of residential, placement, and community services of COMPACT Family Services has made this agency a healthier and more equipped provider of expanding continuum and expertise ready to lead in the next decade.
On August 22, 2018 the agency was nationally accredited by the New York-based Council on Accreditation (COA) through 2022 before renewal. All of COMPACT’s above noted programs and services fall under its COA accreditation. The timing could not have been more favorable. The new FFPSA legislation will impact all providers. Had COMPACT not sought and obtained COA accreditation, it would likely have had to forfeit much of its residential programs. Instead, the agency is poised to be a leader in many facets of FFPSA directives.
The adjustments and improvements invested to these goals and outcomes are vast. As in its prior history, God provided board wisdom and leadership in the cause.
In March 2019, the agency reopened an office for placement and community-based services in Springfield, MO. One of the unique works in Missouri, in combination with its CompaCare partnered churches, is its diversion strategy, an intervention and provision work to prevent kids from coming into foster care or being disrupted from existing foster placements. The strategic vision is to open licensed services in multiple states over the next decade as the Holy Spirit enables.
The agency’s evidence-based and registered trademark compassion care system, CompaCare, is designed for churches to effectively serve more children, youth, and families in need. Today’s Hillcrest campus provides Sibling Care, Qualified Residential Treatment Program, Respite Care, and Transitional Living for emancipating foster youth. On campus individual, group and family counseling services are operative in partnership with licensed counselors. Recently, the agency was asked, and its executive board approved, to open a Hillcrest home dedicated to serving traumatized, autistic foster children. That program is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2019.
In July 2019, COMPACT began a partnership with Arkansas Children’s Hospital to provide SafeCare for a number of southern Arkansas counties. The educational intervention program serves at risk children and their families to help prevent those children from entering the foster care system and experiencing separation from family.
Over the past five years, COMPACT programs have served 638 children. The growing continuum of ministries is faithfully serving the growing need. Almost 140 children and youth were served in the first half of 2019. Cumulatively that represents approximately one million hours of direct care. Thousands of hours of mentoring and counseling were rendered. COMPACT served hundreds of thousands of meals, thousands of medical appointments, medicines or first aid, thousands of articles of clothing, scores of tutoring, and much more. Many children and youth found permanency through family reunification or adoption. These services were lovingly provided in the name of Jesus Christ. Many persons have been healed and redeemed to the glory of God.
COMPACT employs mulitple staff in two states, along with missionary partners in three additional states, providing a growing effort of trauma-informed residential and community-based services for children, youth and families. Its growing professional services are empowering individuals, churches and professionals toward higher competencies of compassion. Dozens of volunteers assist annually to make this an amazing ministry for some of God’s precious people.
COMPACT is a Christ-centered ministry largely dependent on donations, gifts and offerings of generous people, churches and businesses. While some of its services are contractually funded, it is the tax-deductible giving of generous friends that make it a redeeming Christian ministry.
Under the direction of its board of directors, COMPACT Family Services envisions a growing geographic and programmatic continuum of services to the glory of God.