Friday, December 9, 2011

Candy Land

Last week we introduced our daughter to the classic toddler board game Candy Land. It has been a lot of fun seeing her get excited about playing the game; she asks to play it at least 3 times a day! However, as an experienced Candy Land player there is some work in teaching my little rookie how to play. I find myself constantly repeating the following phrases: “draw a card”, “what color did you get”, “stay on your path”, “it’s your turn to move”, “oops, you skipped a color”, etc. Having played this game so many times the past week I couldn’t help thinking about how teaching Kaylee to play Candy Land is a lot like working with the kids placed in our Cookson family.

“It’s your turn to move”-
We can love the kids and encourage them all we want; but it’s up to the child to move. They are the ones that have to own their own stuff and decide to make a move toward positive change. We are constantly praying that God will change their hearts and give them the power to make the right decisions.

“What color did you get”-
Much of what we do here involves helping the kids learn how to play with the cards they were dealt. Some of our kids were dealt a bad hand and some chose one for themselves. We work on building trust with our kids. That trust allows us to have conversations about the choices they make and to get them to think about the possible consequences- good or bad- that may come as a result.

“Stay on your path”-
Each child that comes to Cookson Hills gets an individualized plan of care. The family of origin, the houseparents, and the social worker work together to help the student develop goals for themselves. This plan of care then becomes the path for the student to follow. We constantly refer to the plan of care to make sure the child is staying on the path.

“Oops, you skipped a color”-
As the students are traveling on the path, they sometimes miss some steps toward their goal. Referring back to the plan of care reminds the child of what they are trying to accomplish during their time with us.

We have kids all over the board. Some days our kids are doing well and moving along fine. Some days they choose the gingerbread card by making poor choices and they have to start back at the beginning. We have a couple of kids who are past the ice cream cone and are very near the end of their time at Cookson. We pray that they will take the skills they learned here at Cookson and use them as they walk though the rest of their life.

I am thankful for Cookson Hills. It is truly a place where children can grow and change if they want. It’s a place where it is safe for them to make a mistake and they are given the opportunity to learn from their poor choices. I’m thankful that children have a safe place where they can find help for their current situation, healing from past wounds, and the hope that they can change and have a better future. Most of all I’m thankful that I get to be apart of God’s work in this place.

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