Through Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter in Cartersville, Ga., Advocates for Children is making a positive difference in the lives of abused, neglected, homeless and runaway youth. The shelter offers residents a safe, nurturing place where they may stay for weeks, months or even years.
“With rampant rates of drug abuse and teenage pregnancy, the children of Bartow County and northwest Georgia continue to be at an alarming risk for physical and sexual abuse, and neglect. “Through our shelter and other programs and services, Advocates for Children is working to generate more positive and healthy outcomes for children who have been victims of abuse, domestic violence, and neglect,” said Karen White, executive director.
Youth receive case management services, individual and family counseling, development of social and independent living skills and assistance with achieving a high school diploma, GED and entrance into college.
Bald Ridge Lodge, a stabilization and assessment center in Forsyth County for at-risk boys, the non-profit organization is changing lives one person at a time.
Since the facility opened almost 10 years ago, approximately 400 young men ages 12-21, who are in need of protection, direction, and supervision, have received assistance with a safe haven and counseling in a therapeutic environment.
The majority of residents served have suffered psychological trauma, physical abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, and drug/alcohol abuse, said Heidi Snarey, executive director. While at the lodge, residents receive customized service plans that cater to their specific educational, social and psychological needs. The young men, many of whom are behind on their education, may learn life skills, receive counseling, mentoring and tutoring, and learn to interact with others their own age.
“The lodge has given us a place to keep the children in the county and provide consistency in their education, ability to access services they need, and maintain contact with families so we can reunify the children back into their homes,” said J. Russell Jackson, a juvenile court judge in Forsyth County.
The facility serves those in the custody of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services and those referred by the local juvenile court. About 80 percent of the young men are from Forsyth County and the rest are from around the area.
Since 1927, Open Door Children’s Home has provided for the needs of the neglected, abandoned, and abused children of northwest Georgia and helped them live a healthier, happier and more productive life.
Today, the facility in Rome, which houses 20 children in two homes (one for girls and one for boys), is continuing to provide crisis intervention, and emergency and extended care for youth typically ages 12-18.
According to Lynn Rousseau, executive director, a therapeutic environment permeates every aspect of care that includes basic needs of living, medical, dental and psychological care, and assistance with activities of daily living, including academics. The children work with local therapy providers and receive tutoring from volunteers in Rome’s school system and Berry College.
“We work hard to make their life as close to their nuclear family,” she said. The children –from Floyd and surrounding counties – have weekly family visitation, and enjoy regular fun activities and outings on and off campus with other residents.
Because the cost of covering basic living expenses, therapeutic care, and extras add up, Open Door relies on community partners to assist with annual expenses. In addition to financial support and board leadership, Georgia Power employees regularly volunteer. When the renovated boy’s home re-opened in 2017, company employees helped get the home ready for the boys to move in.