Started as an emergency shelter for Cobb County Department of Family and Children Services, the non-profit provides shelter and comprehensive services to children ages 13 to 21.
“The kids usually come to us because of abuse, neglect, abandonment and have been rendered homeless because of their situation,” said Maureen Lok, president of the Board of Directors at CCYA.
Children at CCYA, often referred by DFACS, are homeless because of family conditions.
“Most of their parents are incarcerated, deceased, on drugs, have mental health issues, have abused, neglected or abandoned (their children), or they have just outright given them a way,” she said.
Some children stay permanently until they age out and others stay a few months until arrangements are made with a family member with whom they can live.
“We take them. We give them food, shelter, clothing, education, recreation, medical care and psychological care,” Lok said.
Lok began volunteering with CCYA in 2001 when she, a master gardener, worked with Leadership Cobb to establish a garden on the premises.
CCYA has two dormitories on its campus that houses boys and girls ages 13 to 17 and a third dormitory, Life Works, for youths 18 to 21.
“Life Works houses children who are aging out of care. We try to provide life skills such as cooking, budget management and things like that for those kids in Life Works so that they can one day be independent. We try to provide them with community contacts and groups that can help them because these kids have no one,” Lok said.
CCYA serves primarily Cobb County, but it is licensed to help children in Georgia. Last year, 80 of the 130 children they helped came from Cobb County, Lok said.
“If we don’t help these kids, you’re going to meet them on the street with a gun someday or they’re going to be dead or they’re going to be pregnant,” Lok said.
Despite the challenges faced by children at CCYA, they all attend school. Last summer 24 had jobs, and many former residents attend college. Six took the SAT Prep course this year.
“These kids are really good kids, and they have no one,” Lok said. “We have to give them the skills we would give to our own children and our neighbor’s children so that they can succeed because they’re totally capable of it. They just had some hard luck being born into the wrong family, and nobody’s helped them.”
“No matter what happened to them in the past or how crummy their lives were, CCYA is a place where kids heal, thrive and learn that tomorrow is the start of a new life,” she said.
“We’re demonstrating that these kids can make it if we give them the extra boost and contacts to make it,” Lok said.
Help CCYA continue its work. Donate and learn more at www.ccyakids.org.