Advocates for Children Places Focus of New Role on the Future of Shelter Residents
Transitioning from childhood and the teenage years into adulthood is a hard task for anyone. This is especially true for residents of Advocates for Children’s Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, a residential facility for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Recognizing this tough transition, the shelter has added a position dedicated to making sure residents learn all they need to know to be productive and happy adults. The position is funded largely through a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant administered by Georgia’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
Jacqueline Knight, who resides in Rome with her husband and children, has recently stepped into the role of Independent Living Coach at the shelter. Having served as a member of the direct care staff at the shelter previously, she is a known face to the children who call the shelter home. In her new role, Knight assists residents age 14 and upin successfully transitioning to young adulthood by teaching them the necessary skills for long term independence. These basic life skills include such topics as personal hygiene, social skills, organization, money management, time management, sex education, nutrition, fitness and professional development.
“I saw the need to really prepare our youth for real-life experiences,” said Knight, who graduated from Coosa Valley Technical College in 2007. “I truly believe that our children are our future, and that they will look out for this world. Some of our youth will not have the opportunity to return to their family and may leave here and go straight into the real world. So, I wanted to make sure that they know how to pay bills and where to do so. I want them to be able to cook for themselves and know how to shop within a budget. I want them to know how to apply for college and know where to get help if they need it.”
The Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter provides care for up to 13 children and teens at one time and serves 40 to 50 residents each year. Youth receive case management services, individual and family counseling, and assistance with achieving a high school diploma, GED, and entrance into college. The new addition to the residential program focuses on making sure that children reach adulthood with the tools and knowledge vital to success, safely transitioning youth to a life of independence and self-sufficiency. Additionally, it is hoped that residents participating in the program will gain confidence as they face these choices and decisions in the future.
Despite being a relatively new position, Knight has already hit the ground running and has worked with residents on their individual plans and goals.
According to Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter Director Lyndsey Wilson, things have been going very well with this new position and the reaction of the children. “She has met with the children to determine where they want to be in the future and how to create small goals to get them there. She is working to help them achieve these goals, and has already held classes to teach kids about banking/saving, applying for jobs, cooking, and even how to tie a tie.”