It’s a big day for us and we are excited to share the news with you all. Since 2000, you’ve known us as the Juvenile Justice Fund (JJF), a non-profit entity that has been dedicated to helping children within the state’s juvenile justice system. Today we are excited to announce that we are evolving and elevating our mission by launching our services under a new name: youthSpark.
Through this evolution, we will continue to grow our ability to identify and address the particular needs of the estimated 12,000 youth and families whose lives intersect with the juvenile justice and social service systems each year. “Capitalizing on the firm, decade-plus foundation set by JJF, youthSpark will seek to “Ignite Justice and Inspire Change” for at-risk youth and their families in the juvenile justice system, working collaboratively to achieve long-lasting, positive results,” says Sharon Simpson Joseph, executive director for youthSpark. “Our vision is to help create a world where the inherent “spark” present in all children is given the opportunity to shine – despite the hardships, circumstances or obstacles they may face. youthSpark is committed to youth and families who have suffered trauma of some kind, whether emotional, psychological, physical, financial or otherwise.”
Currently, the following three arenas are key to our mission:
- Ending child sex trafficking by focusing on both supply and demand;
- Supporting the well-being of children who have been impacted by parental negligence or substance abuse; and
- Bridging the gap between the services provided by the Fulton County Juvenile Court and the needs of youth and families under its jurisdiction.
It is estimated that of the 12,000 cases within the Fulton County juvenile justice system each year, 6,000 are reports of child abuse; 3,500 of those reports become deprivation cases; and 70% of these cases involve substance-abusing parents or custodians. Additionally in Georgia, research shows 7,200 men knowingly or unknowingly purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, and 300 girls are commercially sexually exploited each month.
To combat these statistics, youthSpark’s programs include the following well-known initiatives:
- A Future. Not A Past. (AFNAP), the campaign to stop the prostitution of children in Georgia by focusing on the demand side of transactions. Due to its ongoing effectiveness in combating child sex trafficking, AFNAP is now being replicated in cities across the U.S.;
- The Voices Project, one of the nation’s first prevention-based programs to reduce supply by focusing on girls at-risk of child sex trafficking involvement;
- The Child Well-Being Initiative; Family Visitation Program, providing foster care children supervised visits with their family members in a safe, child-friendly and home-like environment; and
-Project Ready, Set, Go!, empowering women to complete a substance abuse treatment program in hopes of being reunited with their children in a safe and nurturing environment – without relapse.
“Under youthSpark, each of the programs will grow and flourish as we work toward greater social change. As youthSpark expands on previous JJF successes, so too will our initiatives and scope – one cause at a time,” says Joseph. The rename and systematic shift are due largely to our growing mission. JJF – partner to and uniquely based at the largest juvenile court in the Southeast: Fulton County Juvenile Court – was initially formed to provide resource assistance to youth in the juvenile justice system and provide advocacy services for adolescent, female victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Since our inception over 12 years ago, JJF, now youthSpark, has experienced multiple successes, such as the release of its monumental AFNAP 2010 Georgia Demand Study pinpointing the types and tendencies of men who purchase sex with adolescent girls as well as the establishment in 2001 of Angela’s House, which at that time was the state’s first and only Safe House to protect victims of child sex trafficking.
Due to these and other highlights, what was JJF has now evolved into a collective group of pioneers dedicated to developing research, initiatives and programs to impact youth and their families; youthSpark embodies this organizational transition. Says Joseph, “Systematic change is truly a collaborative effort requiring equal participation of each and every member of society. We invite the public to join in our mission by visiting our site, learning more about our initiatives, donating to our various causes and becoming a spark to help ignite the light that lives inside each child despite any barriers.”
We are inspired by this change and hope you are as well. To access more information on the youthSpark launch, including all new collateral, mission statements, messaging and program overview; to donate to youthSpark’s causes; or to learn how to join the youthSpark movement to “Ignite Justice and Inspire Change,” please visit www.youth-spark.org.