Georgia’s State of Hope Program awards youthSpark grant to better identify court-involved children with trauma histories

With the generosity of the The Georgia Professional Human Services Association through Georgia’s State of Hope Program, youthSpark will continue working on a special project to create structural improvements in how Georgia intervenes in child abuse. The project uses feedback from youth and Fulton County Juvenile Court personnel to better identify children with trauma histories and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Our goal is to help Georgia families by utilizing our early intervention framework to provide tools and support to equip youth in overcoming trauma, abuse, or exploitation. 

Children with complex trauma are overrepresented in the juvenile course system. Having just one or two ACEs is linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. youthSpark’s clients average 4+ ACEs. A critical part of mitigating child traumatic stress is developing a coordinated system to collaboratively increase organization’s ability to understand, recognize, and respond to trauma. There is an urgent need to enhance and refine the referral process with Fulton County Juvenile Court by improving how their staff identifies youth with complex trauma. Our project will focus on three key components: 

Community Knowledge: The institutional training portion of our project will continue to build state and community capacity to meet the needs of families at risk of child welfare intervention and families in crisis. By increasing Georgia’s capacity to better identify child abuse, we can disrupt the "abuse to prison" pipeline. Trauma-informed case management and wrap-around services are prevention-focused interventions. An improved referral process will help keep families intact and reduce the need for foster care and out of home placement. 

Family Mental Health: The victim service portion of our project will first address family mental health by providing trauma-informed case management and services to enhance safety and stability by resolving immediate victimization needs and providing personal advocacy and therapy. Our services improve mental, emotional, and social health by addressing personal and social factors leading to court involvement, runaway attempts, and truancy. 

Family Resilience: The holistic, wrap-around care we provide in our Youth Services Center addresses family resilience by equipping youth and their families with tools and strategies to manage trauma and foster self-advocacy by strengthening communication skills and conflict resolution strategies. Our programming addresses four youth goals: (a) Strengthen positive peer and adult relationships of youth; (b) Empower youth to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a safe space, and help them do so in a healthy way; (c) Help youth develop positive body image, understand how they experience emotions internally, and learn about and identify substance use and abuse; and, (d) Equip youth with tools to effectively navigate difficult social situations. 

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