Not far away, a mother and her young children lay huddled together in their only place of shelter, safety and solace - a car. Their hearts soaked in fear, worry and despair. Such situations are a reflection of families pushed to the brink of life because of sudden or prolonged illness, joblessness, drug addiction or homelessness. But what if all of these hardships are absolved by a second chance, where lives are lifted and restored by the wholesomeness of security, hope and faith? Those can be found with one phone call to Christian City.
Tucked away on a quiet, residential, gated campus in South Fulton, the Christian City Children’s Village Residential Program offers homes for children in crisis. Other programs include a 24/7 Safe Place Runaway & Homeless Youth Program, Thrive Graduate Transition Program for high school graduates, and Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program.
Shavonda and Roc are young parents of three children who were constantly trying to make ends meet. For years, the family shuffled back and forth, living with relatives and friends, and sometimes spending the nights in hotels and in their car. One day, Shavonda chose to face the stark reality of her family’s living conditions. “I decided after that last weekend I spent with my kids in a hotel room that I would come and visit Christian City. I didn’t have any more money. [The kids] needed food.” But seeking help for her children meant being temporarily separated from them so she could get her life in order again to adequately provide for their basic needs - food, clothing and shelter.
When Shavonda first arrived at Christian City, she was full of apprehension. But Kelvin Thompson, one of the human service professionals, along with his wife, Jill Thompson, who have been serving families in crisis at Christian City for the past 33 years, helped put the young mother’s mind at ease. Although she was in tears and did not want to be separated from her children, Shavonda was comforted by what she heard the day she came to the Children’s Village. “You know, we’re not trying to take your kids from you. We’re simply trying to be your hands and feet until you can get back on your feet.” Shavonda realized that her children would be well taken care of at the Children's Village.
Christian City's Children & Family Programs are designed to partner with families and children in crisis, to work through challenges and ultimately reunite the children with their biological kinship. The Children's Village core support team which consist of a human service professional (HSP), a therapist, a houseparent couple, and the program executive, works in unison to care for the children physically, emotionally and academically. Sometimes this process takes months or even years. Because of their tumultuous past, it’s not uncommon for the new children to enter the program with moderate behavioral or emotional strain. Since reunification with families is the ultimate goal, engaging the children’s biological parents or relatives is key to the transformation. Shavonda was heavily invested in her children’s care and progress and attended regular meetings with the children and the Children's Village team.
Voluntarily-placed children, like Shavonda’s, room with other youths facing hardship, in gender-designated cottages, overseen by a loving married houseparent couple who pledges to provide care and structure for the children. Each 5000 square foot four-bedroom home is equipped with spacious dining, kitchen and living areas, four bedrooms, a laundry room, and a computer area. Though a child may share a room with another youngster, he/she would have his/her own dresser, bed and desk. Sometimes, the kids find joy decorating their space in a manner that makes them feel “at home” or even playing a game of basketball with their roommates. Life at the Children's Village includes participation in chores, extracurricular activities at school, church and youth groups, and attending summer camps. Kids are encouraged to volunteer and give back to their community as early as age 12.
To date, Shavonda and her children have reunited. Private schooling offered while her kids were under the care of the Children's Village created a wonderful opportunity to elevate them academically and independently in life. Shavonda shared that when her son first arrived at the Children's Village he would barely talk and he had trouble reading and understanding math. “He’s made significant progress, which I can honestly say was because of Christian City. They were amazing.” Consistent therapy and care plans have also helped heal the family. Jill Thompson remarked, “Leaving family and starting all over again, living with, and listening to people they don't know, and becoming open, takes courage and bravery. I have nothing but respect for the children.”